Adam Kirsch Roars for Justice (Prequel to Zizek)

I cite has a reaction to Kirsch-Zizek virtual encounter that has an intriguing comment from a reader who suggests that one must not be surprised to read Adam Kirsch’s “review” of Zizek’s books, apparently, we’re dealing with a pattern. In October, Kirsch reviewed Raymond Geuss’s new book in a piece titled “The Roar of Justice” – enjoy!

Still, in his brash, self-congratulatory attempt to get to the bottom of politics—to replace illusion with reality, ideals with power—Geuss lacks the ruthless consistency of his patron saint, Thrasymachus. “The unjust is lord over the truly simple and just: he is the stronger, and his subjects do what is for his interest, and minister to his happiness, which is very far from being their own,” Thrasymachus says. It follows that the only logical course for any human being is to try to be happily unjust, rather than simple—that is, stupid—and just.

Yet this does not at all seem to be Geuss’s view. On the contrary, his attacks on the Bush administration and the war on Iraq, and his loathing of the bourgeois complacency of Rawls and Nozick, all suggest that he has his own conception of justice, which involves solidarity with the oppressed and resistance to the powerful. (He approvingly quotes not just Lenin but Brecht.) But it’s hard to see how, on his own showing, any critique of existing power arrangements could have any intellectual or moral coherence. The world of Thrasymachus is a war of all against all, in which the powerful will always win. If Geuss does not want to inhabit such a world—and who does?—he should acknowledge that the inquiry into the nature of justice, which has occupied philosophers from Socrates to Rawls, is not an ideological trick, but the necessary beginning of all attempts to make the world more just.

“Solidarity with the oppressed”? No way! How unjust is that? “Resistance to the powerful”? Nice…

Read the whole thing here.

5 thoughts on “Adam Kirsch Roars for Justice (Prequel to Zizek)

  1. Bored, definitely bored with nothing better to do – at least that’s what it says about me, plus it’s been a while since someone was publicly called “the most despicable philosopher in the West” so the masses have to react somehow. On the other hand, this Adam Kirsch fellow sounds like someone who would fit quite well with the sarcasms and the occasional mocking or two here at PE, don’t you think? He might need to lighten up a bit and not take it oh so seriously, but there’s something here, some fundamental lack of awe and respect for the academic authority and reputation that is commendable, I think.

  2. Mikhail! I thought for sure that Zizek was your MASTER. I’m so disillusioned, but really you are right, we could only wish that someone would refer to us as despicable philosophers! Yes Yes, one can’t help but react to such wild claims about someone’s work, but Kirsch’s lack of respect is indeed commendable, misdirected, but commendable.

  3. The best line from the review:

    That is why Geuss calls, near the end of his book, for a “return from the present reactionary forms of neo-Kantianism to . . . neo-Leninism.” (Though he includes the caveat that “one might reasonably call oneself a ‘neo-Leninist’ without thereby being committed to every particular view or theory the historical Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov held,” a disclaimer that will be reassuring to any kulaks in the vicinity of Cambridge.)

  4. I’m sure it’s all nice and taken out of context – I remember being bored while trying to read Geuss’s book and it’s only about 150 pages or so, of course, I don’t remember much but it’s now in the “read” pile…

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