Milbank and Zizek? Yawn!

Instead of finishing grading, I’m reading Carl Raschke prate upon Derrida, events and ghosts.  I don’t really have anything substantive to say just yet because really, it would just push the grading finish line further into the future (I will say this: comparing Bultmann to Badiou? Yucky!), but this passage caught my eye:

In the last decade postmodern thought has largely degenerated, like a CNN or Fox News segment, into a parade before the camera of established “experts”, or luminaries, coming from opposite sides on the same-old-same-old and taking strategic shots at each other.  The current scholarly celebration of the conversation between Žižek and Milbank in The Monstrosity of Christ is a case in point.  I quote from the book blurb by the publisher.

“In this corner, philosopher Slavoj Žižek, a militant atheist who represents the critical-materialist stance against religion’s illusions; in the other corner, “Radical Orthodox” theologian John Milbank, an influential and provocative thinker who argues that theology is the only foundation upon which knowledge, politics, and ethics can stand…Žižek and Milbank go head to head for three rounds, employing an impressive arsenal of moves to advance their positions and press their respective advantages. By the closing bell, they have not only proven themselves worthy adversaries, they have shown that faith and reason are not simply and intractably opposed.”


For something like this “conversation” to receive so much attention fifteen years ago would have been unthinkable.   I haven’t read the book yet, and I’m sure it’s illuminating in many ways, but come on!  I’m reminded of the BBC debates between Father Copleston and Bertrand Russell in the 1960s.  Erudite atheist versus erudite theologue.  Only the names and the styles of argument have changed. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.  Since when was postmodernism about deciding on what “foundation” to rest classical arguments?   I thought foundationalism had been left in the dust.

When what was once avante-garde becomes merely a cool kind of retro, you know you’re in a rut.  But, as Hegel said – actually rather cryptically – about the painting of grays in grays, something may be happening here, but you don’t know what it is.

Like I said to Mikhail:  Zizek and Milbank? Yawn, but I like Raschke’s comment above, I would just add that it’s most likely that nothing is happening.  Full post is here


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