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Slavoj Žižek

Žižek in 2008
Full name Slavoj Žižek
Born 21 March 1949 (1949-03-21) (age 60)
Ljubljana, PR Slovenia, FPR Yugoslavia
Era 20th- / 21st-century philosophy
Region Western Philosophy Psychoanalysis
School Hegelianism · Psychoanalysis · Marxism
Main interests Ontology · Film theory · Psychoanalysis · Ideology · Theology · Marxism

Slavoj Žižek (pronounced [ˈslavoj ˈʒiʒɛk]; born 21 March 1949) is a Slovenian continental philosopher and critical theorist working in the traditions of Hegelianism, Marxism and Lacanian psychoanalysis. He has made contributions to political theory, film theory, and theoretical psychoanalysis.

Žižek is a senior researcher at the Institute of Sociology, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia and a professor at the European Graduate School. He has been a visiting professor at, among others, the University of Chicago, Columbia, London Consortium, Princeton, New York University,The New School, the University of Minnesota, the University of California, Irvine and the University of Michigan. He is currently the International Director of the Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities at Birkbeck, University of London and president of the Society for Theoretical Psychoanalysis, Ljubljana.[1]

Žižek uses examples from popular culture to explain the theory of Jacques Lacan and uses Lacanian psychoanalysis, Hegelian philosophy and Marxist politico-economic critique to interpret social phenomena. He writes on many topics including subjectivity, ideology, capitalism, fundamentalism, racism, tolerance, multiculturalism, human rights, ecology, globalization, the Iraq War, revolution, utopianism, totalitarianism, postmodernism, popular culture, opera, cinema, political theology, and religion.

Contents

Life

Žižek was born in Ljubljana, PR Slovenia, FPR Yugoslavia to a middle-class family. His father Jože Žižek was an economist and civil servant from the region of Prekmurje in eastern Slovenia, his mother Vesna, native of the Brda region in the Slovenian Littoral, was an accountant in a state enterprise .[2][3] He spent most of his childhood in the coastal town of Portorož.[4] The family moved back to Ljubljana when Slavoj was a teenager. His parents were both atheists.[5] Žižek attended the prestigious Bežigrad High School.[4] In 1967, he enrolled at the University of Ljubljana, where he studied philosophy and sociology. He received a Doctor of Arts in Philosophy from the University of Ljubljana and studied psychoanalysis at the University of Paris VIII with Jacques-Alain Miller and François Regnault.

Žižek's early career was hampered by the political environment of 1970s Yugoslavia. He started his studies in an era of relative liberalization of the Communist regime. Among his early influences was the Slovenian Marxist philosopher Božidar Debenjak who introduced the Frankfurt School to Slovenia.[6] Debenjak taught the philosophy of German idealism at the Faculty of Arts of the University of Ljubljana, and his reading of Marx's Das Kapital from the perspective of Hegel's Phenomenology of the Mind influenced many future Slovenian philosophers, including Žižek.[7]

Žižek frequented the circles of dissident intellectuals, including the Heideggerian philosophers Tine Hribar and Ivo Urbančič,[8] and published articles in alternative magazines, such as Praxis, Tribuna and Problemi, of which he was also an editor.[4] In 1971 he was given employment at the University of Ljubljana as an assistant researcher with the promise of tenure. In 1973, after Tito and Stane Dolanc removed the reformist Slovenian leadership and the regime's policies toughened again, he was dismissed after his Master's thesis was explicitly accused of being "non-Marxist".[9] He spent the next few years undertaking national service in the Yugoslav army in Karlovac.

After four years of unemployment, Žižek gained a job as a recording clerk at the Slovenian Marxist Center. At the same time, he became involved with a group of Slovene scholars, among whom were Mladen Dolar and Rastko Močnik, whose theoretical focus was on the psychoanalytic theory of Jacques Lacan.[10] In 1979, he was hired as a researcher at the Institute of Sociology of the University of Ljubljana with the help of philosopher Ivan Urbančič.[9]

Žižek was member of the Communist Party of Slovenia until October 1988, when he quit in protest against the JBTZ-trial together with 32 other Slovenian public intellectuals.[11] Between 1988 and 1990, he was actively involved in several political and civil society movements which fought for the democratization of Slovenia, most notably the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights.[12] In the first free elections in 1990, he ran as candidate for Presidency of the Republic of Slovenia (an auxiliary institution abolished in the constitution of 1991) for the Liberal Democratic Party. In a 2008 interview with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! he described himself as a "communist in a qualified sense."[13]

It was not until the 1989 publication of his first book written in English, The Sublime Object of Ideology, that Žižek achieved international recognition as a social theorist. Since then, he has continued to develop his status as a confrontational intellectual. One of Žižek's most-widely discussed books, The Ticklish Subject (1999), explicitly positions itself against Deconstructionists, Heideggerians, Habermasians, cognitive scientists, and what Žižek describes as New Age "obscurantists".

One of the problems in outlining Žižek's work and ideas is that he seems to change his theoretical position (for instance, on the question of whether Lacan is a structuralist or poststructuralist) between books and sometimes even within the pages of one book. Because of this, some of his critics have accused him of inconsistency and lacking intellectual rigor. However, Ian Parker claims that there is no "Žižekian" system of philosophy because Žižek, with all his inconsistencies, is trying to make us think much harder about what we are willing to believe and accept from a single writer (Parker, 2004). Indeed, Žižek himself defends Jacques Lacan for constantly updating his theories, arguing that it is not the task of the philosopher to act as the Big Other who tells us about the world but rather to challenge our own ideological presuppositions. The philosopher, for Žižek, is more someone engaged in critique than someone who tries to answer questions.[14]

However, this claim about the role of the philosopher/theorist is complicated by how Žižek frequently derides the consumerist fashionability of postmodern cultural criticism while affirming his universal emancipatory stance and love for "grand explanations" (Žižek, 2008). In contrast to Parker, Adrian Johnston's book Zizek's Ontology: A Transcendental Materialist Theory of Subjectivity argues against the position that Žižek's thought has no consistency or underlying project. Specifically, Johnston claims in his Preface that beneath "what could be called 'the cultural studies Žižek'" is a singular "philosophical trajectory that runs like a continuous, bisecting diagonal line through the entire span of his writing (i.e. the retroactive Lacanian reconstruction of the chain Kant-Schelling-Hegel)." Žižek's affirmation of this claim suggests that like his predecessor Hegel, Žižek's work is better described as rigorous in the sense of systematic rather than as comprising a single, all-encompassing "system."

Žižek wrote text to accompany Bruce Weber photos in a catalog for Abercrombie & Fitch. Questioned as to the seemliness of a major intellectual writing ad copy, Žižek told the Boston Globe: "If I were asked to choose between doing things like this to earn money and becoming fully employed as an American academic, kissing ass to get a tenured post, I would with pleasure choose writing for such journals!"[15] He is widely regarded as a fiery and colorful lecturer who does not shy away from controversial remarks. His three-part documentary The Pervert's Guide to Cinema was broadcast on British television by the More4 channel in July 2006 and is available on DVD. Žižek has been publishing on a regular basis in journals such as Lacanian Ink and In These Times in the United States, the New Left Review and The London Review of Books in the United Kingdom, and with the Slovenian left liberal magazine Mladina and newspapers Dnevnik and Delo. He co-operates also with the influential Polish leftist magazine Krytyka Polityczna, and serves on the editorial board of the psychoanalytical journal Problemi.[citation needed]

He is a fluent speaker of Slovene, Serbo-Croatian, English, French and German. He also has basic knowledge of Italian [16] He was formerly married to Slovenian philosopher Renata Salecl and to Argentine model and Lacanian scholar Analia Hounie.[citation needed]

Astra Taylor's 2005 documentary Žižek! documented its title subject, and Žižek also appeared in her 2008 Examined Life. The International Journal of Žižek Studies was launched in 2007, and since 2005, Žižek has been an assosiate member of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts[17].

Thought

Ontology

Žižek's ontology posits a return to the category of the Cartesian subject, a return to the category of ideology, and a return to the notion of the Lacanian Real.

  1. The defense of the category of the subject involves first a vindication of the notion of subjectivity for an adequate descriptive political theory. Žižek argues that hegemonic regimes function by interpellating individuals into social roles and mandates within a given polity: we cannot understand how power functions without some account of the psychology of political subjects. Secondly, there is the vindication of the "category of the subject". Following Lacan, Žižek contends that subjectivity corresponds to a lack (manque) that always resists full inscription into the mandates prescribed to individuals by hegemonic regimes.
  2. In his deployment of the category of "ideology", Žižek finds the notions of ideology in Marx "The German Ideology" - which center on the notion of "false consciousness" - to be irrelevant in a period of unprecedented subjective reflexivity and cynicism as to the motives and workings of those in authority (see The Sublime Object of Ideology). It can be argued however that Žižek's most original aspect comes from its insistence that a Lacanian model of the barred or split subject, because of its stipulation that individuals' deepest motives are unconscious, can be used to demonstrate that ideology has less become irrelevant today than revealed its deeper truth (see Matthew Sharpe, Slavoj Žižek.)
  3. In a contentious extension of the referential scope of ideology, Žižek maintains that dominant ideologies wholly structure the subject's senses of reality. Yet, The Real is not equivalent to the reality experienced by the subjects as a meaningfully ordered totality. To him, the Real names points within the ontological fabric knitted by the hegemonic systems of representation and reproduction that nevertheless resist full inscription into its terms, and which may as such attempt to generate sites of active political resistance.

In The Parallax View (2006), Žižek stages confrontations between idealist and materialist understandings of various aspects of ontology. One such confrontation between idealism and materialism is expressed in Lacanian terms between an idealism's purported ability to theorize the All versus a Materialism's understanding that an apparent All is really a non-All. His penchant for staging a confrontation between idealism and materialism leads him to describe his work in such paradoxical terms as a "materialist theology." Žižek offers that reality is fundamentally open and a materialist "minimal difference" - the gap that appears in reality between a reductionist description of physical process and one's experience of existence - is the real of human life and the crucial domain that an ontology must attempt to theorize. Žižek equates the gap with the Freudian death drive, as the negative and mortifying "thing that thinks." Although biological psychology might one day be able to completely model a person's brain, there would still be something left over that could not be explained. This "remainder" formally corresponds precisely to the Freudian death drive and Schellingian/Hegelian self-reflecting negativity or "Night of the World," all of which Žižek formulates as the zero-level of subjectivity. It is death drive which takes this role, not the limit-function to pleasure called the pleasure principle, thus it is the negative aspect of consciousness that breaks and offers judgment on the unrepresentable totality. Žižek points to the fact that consciousness is opaque. Taking his cue from Descartes' problem of the possible automaton in hat & coat and the Husserlian failure to fully account for the selfhood of the other (through resort to the metaphor of "empathy"), Žižek claims a primary characteristic of consciousness is that one cannot ever know if an apparently conscious being is truly conscious or merely an effective mime.

Žižek's metaphysics are, to a certain extent an anti-metaphysics, because he believes it is absurd to theorize the All, because something will always remain untheorized. This can be explained in Lacanian terms, in terms of the relationship between the Symbolic and the Real. For Žižek, we can view a person in several ways, but these ways are mutually exclusive. For example, we can see a person as either an ethical being with free will or a determined biological creature but not both. These are the Symbolic interpretations of the Real, ways of using language to understand that which is non-All, that which cannot be totally understood by description. For Žižek, however, the Real is not a thing which is understood in different ways depending on how you decide to look at it (person as ethical being versus person as biological being); the Real is instead the movement from one vantage point to another - the "parallax view". Žižek sidesteps relativism by claiming that there is a diagonal ontological cut across apparently incommensurable discourses, which points to their intersubjectivity. This means that although there are multiple Symbolic interpretations of the Real, they are not all relatively "true." Žižek identifies two instances of the Real; the abject Real, which cannot be symbolized, and the symbolic Real (see On Belief), a set of signifiers that can never be properly integrated into the horizon of sense of a subject. The truth is revealed in the process of transiting the contradictions; or the real is a "minimal difference", the gap between the infinite judgement of a reductionist materialism and experience as lived.

The formation of the subject

Žižek argues that Descartes' cogito is the basis of the subject. However, whereas most thinkers read the cogito as a substantial, transparent and fully self-conscious "I" which is in complete command of its destiny, Žižek proposes that the cogito is an empty space, what is left when the rest of the world is expelled from itself. The Symbolic Order is what substitutes for the loss of the immediacy of the world and it is where the void of the subject is filled in by the process of subjectivization. The latter is where the subject is given an identity and where that identity is altered by the Self.

Once the Lacanian concepts of the Imaginary, the Symbolic and the Real are grasped, Žižek, in philosophical writings such as his discussion of Schelling, always interprets the work of other philosophers in terms of those concepts. This is so because "the core of my entire work is the endeavour to use Lacan as a privileged intellectual tool to reactualize German idealism". (See The Žižek Reader) The reason Žižek thinks German idealism (the work of Hegel, Kant, Fichte and Schelling) needs reactualizing is that we are thought to understand it in one way, whereas the truth of it is something else. The term "reactualizing" refers to the fact that there are different possible ways to interpret German idealism, and Žižek wishes to make "actual" one of those possibilities in distinction to the way it is currently realized. At its most basic, German idealism believes that the truth of something could be found in itself. For Žižek, the fundamental insight of German idealism is that the truth of something is always outside it. So the truth of our experience lies outside ourselves, in the Symbolic and the Real, rather than being buried deep within us. We cannot look into our selves and find out who we truly are, because who we truly are is always elsewhere.

Our selves are somewhere else in the Symbolic formations which always precede us and in the Real which we have to disavow if we are to enter the Symbolic order.

To Žižek, Lacan's proposition that self-identity is impossible becomes central in structuration of the subject. The identity of something, its singularity or "oneness", is always split. There is always too much of something, an indivisible remainder, or a bit left-over which means that it cannot be self-identical (e.g., the meaning of a word can never be found in the word itself, but rather in other words; its meaning therefore is not self-identical). This principle of the impossibility of self-identity is what informs Žižek's reading of the German idealists. In reading Schelling, for example, the Beginning is not actually the beginning at all - the truth of the Beginning lies elsewhere, it is split or not identical to itself.

How, precisely, does the Word discharge the tension of the rotary motion, how does it mediate the antagonism between the contractive and the expansive force? The Word is a contraction in the guise of its very opposite of an expansion - that is, in pronouncing a word, the subject contracts his being outside himself; he "coagulates" the core of his being in an external sign. In the (verbal) sign, I - as it were - find myself outside myself, I posit my unity outside myself, in a signifier which represents me ("The Indivisible Remainder: An Essay on Schelling and Related Matters").

The subject of enunciation is the "I" who speaks, the individual doing the speaking; the subject of the enunciated is the "I" of the sentence. "I" is not identical to itself - it is split between the individual "I" (the subject of enunciation) and the grammatical "I" (the subject of the enunciated). Although we may experience them as unified, this is merely an Imaginary illusion, for the pronoun "I" is actually a substitute for the "I" of the subject. It does not account for me in my full specificity; it is, rather, a general term I share with everyone else. In order to do so, my empirical reality must be annihilated or, as Lacan avers, "the symbol manifests itself first of all as the murder of the thing". The subject can only enter language by negating the Real, murdering or substituting the blood-and-sinew reality of self for the concept of self expressed in words. For Lacan and Žižek, every word is a gravestone, marking the absence or corpse of the thing it represents and standing in for it. It is partly in the light of this that Lacan is able to refashion Descartes' maxim "I think, therefore I am" as "I think where I am not, therefore I am where I think not".

The "I think" here is the subject of the enunciated (the Symbolic subject) whereas the "I am" is the subject of the enunciation (the Real subject). What Lacan aims to disclose by rewriting the Cartesian cogito in this way is that the subject is irrevocably split, torn asunder by language

The concept of vanishing mediator is one that Žižek has consistently employed since For They Know Not What They Do. A vanishing mediator is a concept which somehow negotiates and settles - hence mediating - the transition between two opposed concepts and thereafter disappears. Žižek draws attention to the fact that a vanishing mediator is produced by an asymmetry of content and form. As with Marx's analysis of revolution, form lags behind content, in the sense that content changes within the parameters of an existing form, until the logic of that content works its way out of the latter and throws off its husk, revealing a new form in its stead. "The passage from feudalism to Protestantism is not of the same nature as the passage from Protestantism to bourgeois everyday life with its privatized religion. The first passage concerns "content" (under the guise of preserving the religious form or even its strengthening, the crucial shift - the assertion of the ascetic acquisitive stance in economic activity as the domain of manifestation of Grace - takes place), whereas the second passage is a purely formal act, a change of form (as soon as Protestantism is realized as the ascetic acquisitive stance, it can fall off as form)" (For They Know Not What They Do: Enjoyment as a Political Factor).

Žižek sees in this process evidence of Hegel's "negation of the negation", the third moment of the dialectic. The first negation is the mutation of the content within and in the name of the old form. The second negation is the obsolescence of the form itself. In this way, something becomes the opposite of itself, paradoxically, by seeming to strengthen itself. In the case of Protestantism, the universalization of religious attitudes ultimately led to its being sidelined as a matter of private contemplation. Which is to say that Protestantism, as a negation of feudalism, was itself negated by capitalism.

The Real

The Real is not only opposed to the imaginary but is also located beyond the symbolic.

Unlike the latter, which is constituted in terms of oppositions such as "presence" and "absence," there is no absence in the real. The symbolic opposition between "presence" and "absence" implies the possibility that something may be missing from the symbolic, the real is "always in its place: it carries it glued to its heel, ignorant of what might exile it from there." If the symbolic is a set of differentiated signifiers, the real is in itself undifferentiated: "it is without fissure." The symbolic introduces "a cut in the real," in the process of signification: "it is the world of words that creates the world of things." Thus the real emerges as that which is outside language: "it is that which resists symbolization absolutely." The real is impossible because it is impossible to imagine, impossible to integrate into the symbolic order. This character of impossibility and resistance to symbolization lends the real its traumatic quality.

There are also three modalities of the real:

  • The "symbolic real": the signifier reduced to a meaningless formula
  • The "real real": a horrific thing, that which conveys the sense of horror in horror films
  • The "imaginary real": an unfathomable something that permeates things as a trace of the sublime. This form of the real becomes perceptible in the film The Full Monty, for instance, in the fact that in disrobing the unemployed protagonists completely; in other words, through this extra gesture of "voluntary" degradation, something else, of the order of the sublime, becomes visible.

The Symbolic

Although the Symbolic is an essentially linguistic dimension, Lacan does not simply equate the symbolic with language, since the latter is involved also in the imaginary and the real. The symbolic dimension of language is that of the signifier, in which elements have no positive existence but are constituted by virtue of their mutual differences. It is the realm of radical alterity: the Other. The unconscious is the discourse of the Other and thus belongs to the symbolic order. It is also the realm of the Law that regulates desire in the Oedipus complex. The symbolic is both the "pleasure principle" that regulates the distance from das Ding, and the "death drive" which goes beyond the pleasure principle by means of repetition: "the death drive is only the mask of the symbolic order." This register is determinant of subjectivity; for Lacan the symbolic is characterized by the absence of any fixed relations between signifier and signified.

The Imaginary

The basis of the Imaginary order is the formation of the ego in the "mirror stage". Since the ego is formed by identifying with the counterpart or specular image, "identification" is an important aspect of the imaginary. The relationship whereby the ego is constituted by identification is a locus of "alienation", which is another feature of the imaginary, and is fundamentally narcissistic. The imaginary, a realm of surface appearances which are deceptive, is structured by the symbolic order. It also involves a linguistic dimension: whereas the signifier is the foundation of the symbolic, the "signified" and "signification" belong to the imaginary. Thus language has both symbolic and imaginary aspects. Based on the specular image, the imaginary is rooted in the subject's relationship to the body (the image of the body).

Postmodernism

Žižek's understanding of the postmodern can be characterized is as an over-proximity of the Real. Žižek identifies various manifestations of this in postmodern culture, such as the technique of "filling in the gaps." (See Žižek's analysis). By way of "filling in the gaps" and "telling it all", what we retreat from is the void as such, which is ultimately none other than the void of subjectivity (the Lacanian "barred subject"). (See The Fright of Real Tears: Krzysztof Kieslowski between Theory and Post-Theory.)

For Žižek, present society, or postmodernity, is based upon the demise in the authority of the big Other (see Jacques Lacan). Continuing the theorists of the contemporary risk society, who advocate the personal freedoms of choice or reflexivity, which have replaced this authority, Žižek argues that these theorists ignore the reflexivity at the heart of the subject. For Žižek, lacking the prohibitions of the big Other, in these conditions, the subject's inherent reflexivity manifests itself in attachments to forms of subjection, paranoia and narcissism. In order to ameliorate these pathologies, Žižek proposes the need for a political act or revolution - one that will alter the conditions of possibility of postmodernity (which he identifies as capitalism) and so give birth to a new type of Symbolic Order in which a new breed of subject can exist.

  1. The Law. Žižek refers to the law throughout his work. The term "the law" signifies the principles upon which society is based, designating a mode of collective conduct based upon a set of prohibitions. However, for Žižek, the rule of the law conceals an inherent unruliness which is precisely the violence by which it established itself as law in the first place. (See For They Know Not What They Do: Enjoyment as a Political Factor.)
  2. The Demise of the big Other. One key aspect of the universalization of reflexivity is the resulting disintegration of the big Other, the communal network of social institutions, customs and laws. For Žižek, the big Other was always dead, in the sense that it never existed in the first place as a material thing. All it ever was (and is) is a purely symbolic order. It means that we all engage in a minimum of idealization, disavowing the brute fact of the Real in favor of another Symbolic world behind it. Žižek expresses this disavowal in terms of an "as if". In order to coexist with our neighbors we act "as if" they do not smell bad or look ridiculous. The big Other is then a kind of collective lie to which we all individually subscribe. (See Jacques Lacan on other/Other and Žižek's For They Know Not What They Do.)
  3. The Return of the big Other. Paradoxically, then, Žižek argues that the typical postmodern subject is one who displays an outright cynicism towards official institutions, yet at the same time believes in the existence of conspiracies and an unseen Other pulling the strings. This apparently contradictory coupling of cynicism and belief is strictly correlative to the demise of the big Other. Its disappearance causes us to construct an Other of the Other in order to escape the unbearable freedom its loss encumbers us with. (See Looking Awry: an Introduction to Jacques Lacan through Popular Culture.)

Žižek follows Louis Althusser in jettisoning the Marxist equation: "ideology equals false consciousness." Ideology, to all intents and purposes, is consciousness. Ideology does not "mask" the real—one cannot achieve true consciousness. This being the case, post-ideological postmodern "knowingness"—the cynicism and irony of postmodern cultural production—does not reveal the truth, the real, the hard kernel. Knowing that we are being "lied" to is hardly the stuff of revolution when ideology is not, and never has been, simply a matter of consciousness, of subject positions, but is the very stuff of everyday praxis itself. The cynics and ironists, not to mention the deconstructionists et al., may know that reality is an "ideological construction"—some have even read their Lacan and Derrida—but in their daily practice, caught up in an apparently unalterable world of exchange-values (capital), they do their part to sustain that construction in any case. As Marx would say, it is their very life process that is ideological, what they know, or what they think they know, being neither here nor there. The postmodern cultural artifact—the "critique," the "incredulity"—is itself merely a symptom/commodity fetish. Thus has capital commodified even the cynicism that purports to unmask its "reality," to "emancipate."

Politicization

Today, in the aftermath of the "end of ideology", Žižek is critical of the way political decisions are justified; the way, for example, reductions in social programs are sometimes presented as an apparently 'objective' necessity, though this is no longer a valid basis for political discourse. He sees the current "talk about greater citizen involvement" or "political goals circumscribed within the rubric of the cultural" as having little effectiveness as long as no substantial measures are devised for the long run. But measures such as the "limitation of the freedom of capital" and the "subordination of the manufacturing processes to a mechanism of social control"—these Žižek calls a "radical de-politicization of the economy" (A Plea for Intolerance).

So at present Slavoj Žižek is arguing for a politicization of the economy. For indeed the "tolerant" multicultural impulse, as the dogma of today's liberal society, suppresses the crucial question: How can we reintroduce into the current conditions of globalization the genuine space of the political? He also argues in favor of a "politicization of politics" as a counter balance to post-politics. In the area of political decision making in a democratic context he criticizes the two-party system that is dominant in some countries as a political form of a "post-political era", as a manifestation of a possibility of choice that in reality does not exist.

Politicization is thus for him present whenever "a particular demand begins to function as a representative of the impossible universal". Žižek sees class struggle not as localized objective determinations, as a social position vis-à-vis capital but rather as lying in a "radically subjective" position: the proletariat is the living, "embodied contradiction". Only through particularism in the political struggle can any universalism emerge. Fighting for workers interests often appears discredited today ("indeed in this domain the workers themselves only wish to implement their own interests, they fight only for themselves and not for the whole"). The problem is how to foster a politicizing politics in the age of post-politics. Particular demands, acting as a "metaphorical condensation", would thus aim at something that transcends those particular demands, a genuine reconstruction of the social framework. Žižek, following Jacques Ranciere, sees the real political conflict as being that between an ordered structure of society and those without a place in it, the "part that has no part" in anything but nonetheless causes the structure to falter, because it refers to—i.e. embodies—an "empty principle" of the "universal".

The very fact that a society is not easily divided into classes, that there is no "simple structural trait" for it, that for instance the "middle class" is also intensely fought over by a populism of the right, is a sign of this struggle. Otherwise "class antagonism would be completely symbolized" and no longer both impossible and real at the same time ("impossible/real"). His solution to capitalism is a rapid repoliticization of the economy.

Atheism

Žižek is a strong atheist. He supports demolition of religion and said "Churches should be turned into grain silos or palaces of culture." He also said his views verge on Maoist lines. He believes the universalist aspect of Christianity should be secularized into militant egalitarianism, against "pagan notion of destiny".[18]

In 2006, Zizek penned an opinion piece published in the New York Times calling atheism a great legacy of Europe, and voiced his support for the propagation of atheism in the continent.[19]

Critiques

Slavoj Žižek's notoriety in academic circles has increased rapidly, especially since he began publishing widely in English. Many hundreds of academics have addressed aspects of Žižek's work in professional papers.[20] Inevitably, in the course of such scholarly discussion, many other thinkers differ with aspects of Žižek conceptual approach or specific arguments. While there is no indication that Žižek has received more criticism than have other continental philosophers of similar repute, a great number of writers have taken stances critical of Slavoj Žižek's work.

Award

He was listed on Top 100 Public Intellectuals Poll.

Bibliography

Other works cited

  • Canning, P. "The Sublime Theorist of Slovenia: Peter Canning Interviews Slavoj Žižek" in Artforum, Issue 31, March 1993, pp. 84–9.

Critical introductions to Žižek

  • Adrian Johnston, Badiou, Žižek, and Political Transformations: The Cadence of Change (Evanston, Northwestern University Press, 2009).
  • Adrian Johnston, Zizek's Ontology: A Transcendental Materialist Theory of Subjectivity (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 2008).
  • Jodi Dean, Žižek's Politics (London: Routledge, 2006).
  • Rex Butler, "Slavoj Žižek: Live Theory" (London: Continuum, 2005)..
  • Ian Parker, Slavoj Žižek: A Critical Introduction (London: Pluto Press, 2004).
  • Dominik Finkelde, Slavoj Žižek zwischen Lacan und Hegel. Politische Philosophie, Metapsychologie, Ethik (Wien: Turia + Kant, 2009).
  • Adam Kotsko, Žižek and Theology (New York: T & T Clark, 2008).
  • Matthew Sharpe, Slavoj Žižek, a little piece of the Real (London: Ashgate, 2004).
  • Tony Myers, Slavoj Žižek (London: Routledge, 2003).
  • Sarah Kay, Žižek: A Critical Introduction (Cambridge: Polity, 2003)
  • Christopher Hanlon, "Psychoanalysis and the Post-Political: An Interview with Slavoj Žižek." New Literary History 32 (Winter, 2001).
  • Marcus Pound, Zizek: A (Very) Critical Introduction (Interventions) (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2008).

References

  1. ^ Revija Problemi (30 October 2007), Society for Theoretical Psychoanalysis, Ljubljana, Slovenia Cultural Profiles Project, http://www.culturalprofiles.net/slovenia/units/5551.html 
  2. ^ Slovenski biografski leksikon (Ljubljana: SAZU, 1991), XV. edition
  3. ^ http://www.mladina.si/tednik/200442/clanek/nar-kdo_je_kdaj--ursa_matos/
  4. ^ a b c Slovenska pomlad: Slavoj Žižek (Webpage run by the National Museum of Modern History in Ljubljana)
  5. ^ http://www.mladina.si/tednik/200442/clanek/nar-kdo_je_kdaj--ursa_matos/
  6. ^ http://dpu.mirovni-institut.si/9letnik/debenjak.php
  7. ^ http://www.mladina.si/tednik/200904/dr__bozidar_debenjak__filozof
  8. ^ http://www.mladina.si/tednik/200442/clanek/nar-kdo_je_kdaj--ursa_matos/
  9. ^ a b Žižek's response to the article "Če sem v kaj resnično zaljubljena, sem v življenje (Sobotna priloga Dela, p. 37 (19.1. 2008)
  10. ^ "Chronology: Slavoj Žižek, His Life." From Lacan.com
  11. ^ , Slovenska Pomlad, 1998-10-28, http://www.slovenskapomlad.si/1?id=103 
  12. ^ Odbor za varstvo človekovih pravic, Slovenska Pomlad, 1998-06-03, http://www.slovenskapomlad.si/1?id=31&aofs=3 
  13. ^ Democracy Now! television program online transcript, 11 March 2008.
  14. ^ Butler, Rex and Scott Stephens. "Play Fuckin' Loud: Žižek Versus the Left." The Symptom, Online Journal for Lacan.com.
  15. ^ Glenn, Joshua. "The Examined Life: Enjoy Your Chinos!" Boston Globe. 6 July 2003. H2.
  16. ^ Toni Dugorepec (2008-11-22), Slavoj Žižek: predavanje (1.del), Primorska.info, http://www.primorska.info/novice/1752/slavoj_zizek_predavanje_1del 
  17. ^ SASA members
  18. ^ I am a Fighting Atheist: Interview with Slavoj Zizek, Bad Subjects, February 2002.
  19. ^ Zizek, Slavoj. Atheism is a legacy worth fighting for. New York Times. March 13, 2006.
  20. ^ Google Scholar search for Zizek

External links


Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Slavoj Žižek (born 1949-03-21) is a Slovenian sociologist, philosopher and cultural critic.

Sourced

  • We usually speak of the Jewish-Christian civilization — perhaps, the time has come, especially with regard to the Middle East conflict, to talk about the Jewish-Muslim civilization as an axis opposed to Christianity.
  • A spectre is haunting Western academia (...), the spectre of the Cartesian subject.
    • The Ticklish Subject: The Absent Centre of Political Ontology (London/New York: Verso, 1999), p. 1.
  • There is a somewhat analogous situation with regard to the heterosexual seduction procedure in our Politically Correct times: the two sets, the set of PC behaviour and the set of seduction, do not actually intersect anywhere; that is, there is no seduction which is not in a way an "incorrect" intrusion or harassment — at some point, one has to expose oneself and "make a pass." So does this mean that every seduction is incorrect harassment through and through? No, and that is the catch: when you make a pass, you expose yourself to the Other (the potential partner), and she decides retroactively, by her reaction, whether what you have just done was harassment or a successful act of seduction — and there is no way to tell in advance what her reaction will be. This is why assertive women often despise "weak" men — because they fear to expose themselves, to take the necessary risk. And perhaps this is even more true in our PC times: are not PC prohibitions rules which, in one way or another, are to be violated in the seduction process? Is not the seducer’s art to accomplish this violation properly — so that afterwards, by its acceptance, its harassing aspect will be retroactively cancelled?
    • The Fragile Absolute: or, why is the Christian legacy worth fighting for? (London: Verso, 2000, ISBN 1-85984-326-3), p. 111.
  • In the electoral campaign, President Bush named as the most important person in his life Jesus. Now he has a unique chance to prove that he meant it seriously: for him, as for all Americans today, "Love thy neighbor!" means "Love the Muslims!" OR IT MEANS NOTHING AT ALL.
  • [A]t the beginning of November 2001, there was a series of meetings between White House advisers and senior Hollywood executives with the aim of co-ordinating the war effort and establishing how Hollywood could help in the "war against terrorism" by getting the right ideological message across not only to Americans, but also to the Hollywood public around the globe — the ultimate empirical proof that Hollywood does in fact function as an "ideological state apparatus."
    • Welcome to the Desert of the Real!: Five Essays on September 11 and Related Dates (London: Verso, 2002, ISBN 1-859-84421-9), p. 16
  • As a Marxist, let me add: if anyone tells you Lacan is difficult, this is class propaganda by the enemy.
    • Last remark in an interview for the CN8 show Nitebeat, 2003 [1]
  • I hate writing. I so intensely hate writing — I cannot tell you how much. The moment I am at the end of one project I have the idea that I didn’t really succeed in telling what I wanted to tell, that I need a new project — it’s an absolute nightmare. But my whole economy of writing is in fact based on an obsessional ritual to avoid the actual act of writing.
    • Conversations with Žižek by Slavoj Žižek and Glyn Daly (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2004), p. 42
  • I believe in clear-cut positions. I think that the most arrogant position is this apparent, multidisciplinary modesty of "what I am saying now is not unconditional, it is just a hypothesis," and so on. It really is a most arrogant position. I think that the only way to be honest and expose yourself to criticism is to state clearly and dogmatically where you are. You must take the risk and have a position.
    • Conversations with Žižek by Slavoj Žižek and Glyn Daly (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2004), p. 45
  • With Lenin it was always a substantial commitment. I always have a certain admiration for people who are aware that somebody has to do the job. What I hate about these liberal, pseudo-left, beautiful soul academics is that they are doing what they are doing fully aware that somebody else will do the job for them.
    • Conversations with Žižek by Slavoj Žižek and Glyn Daly (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2004), p. 50
  • Daly: In a sense, would you say that the age of biogenetics/cyberspace is the age of philosophy?
    Žižek: Yes, and the age of philosophy in the sense again that we are confronted more and more often with philosophical problems at an everyday level. It is not that you withdraw from daily life into a world of philosophical contemplation. On the contrary, you cannot find your way around daily life itself without answering certain philosophical questions. It is a unique time when everyone is, in a way, forced to be some kind of philosopher.
    • Conversations with Žižek by Slavoj Žižek and Glyn Daly (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2004), p. 54
  • Think about the strangeness of today's situation. Thirty, forty years ago, we were still debating about what the future will be: communist, fascist, capitalist, whatever. Today, nobody even debates these issues. We all silently accept global capitalism is here to stay. On the other hand, we are obsessed with cosmic catastrophes: the whole life on earth disintegrating, because of some virus, because of an asteroid hitting the earth, and so on. So the paradox is, that it's much easier to imagine the end of all life on earth than a much more modest radical change in capitalism.
  • "They are trying as directly as possible to sell you experiences, i.e. what you are able to do with the car, not the car as a product itself. An extreme example of this is this existing economic marketing concept, which basically evaluates the value of you as a potential consumer of your own life. Like how much are you worth, in the sense of all you will spend to buy back your own life as a certain quality life. You will spend so much in doctors, so much in beauty, so much in transcendental meditation, so much for music, and so on. What you are buying is a certain image and practice of your life. So what is your market potential, as a buyer of your own life in this sense? "
  • "It is also crucial to bear in mind the interconnection between the Decalogue... and its modern obverse, the celebrated 'human Rights'. As the experience of our post-political liberal-permissive society amply demonstrates, human Rights are ultimately, at their core, simply Rights to violate the Ten Commandments. 'The right to privacy' -- the right to adultery, in secret, where no one sees me or has the right to probe my life. 'The right to pursue happiness and to possess private property' -- the right to steal (to exploit others). 'Freedom of the press and of the expression of opinion' -- the right to lie. 'The right of free citizens to possess weapons' -- the right to kill. And, ultimately, 'freedom of religious belief' -- the right to worship false gods."
    • "The fragile absolute: or, why is the Christian legacy worth fighting for?" Slavoj Žižek

External links

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