Reading Žižek’s Less Than Nothing (3)


So Žižek’s slowly but surely winding down from somewhat interesting observations – interesting in terms of possibilities – to the usual mediocre neither-here-nor-there stuff where a joke or an anecdote carry most of the argumentative force: “Traditionally everyone thinks that X, but in this one movie the main character says Y, so what if the traditional view is incorrect? But, wait, it is incorrect, so Z is the case” – I know it’s silly to whine about this, this is essentially what Žižek does all the goddamn time, but one always hopes that a thinker develops, grows, overcomes one’s limitations. Not Žižek.

It gets especially strange where Žižek touches upon issues that are more or less Hegelian. Take a look at a passage such as this one:

The dialectical process is thus more refined than it may appear: the standard notion is that one can only arrive at the final truth along the path of error, so that the errors along the way are not simply discarded, but “sublated” in the final truth, preserved in it as its moments. The evolutionary notion of dialectical process tells us that the result is not just a dead body, that it does not stand alone, in abstraction from the process that engendered it: in this process, different moments first appeared in their unilateral immediate form, while the final synthesis gathers them as sublated, maintaining their rational core. What this standard notion misses is how the previous moments are preserved precisely as superfluous. In other words, while the preceding stages are indeed superfluous, we need time to arrive at the point from which we can see that they are so. [206]

You have all the elements of the classical Žižek moves: traditional view is boring, it misses something, what it misses is this one observation that Žižek makes based on a couple of anecdotes (repeated from previous works – even coming up with new jokes is too much of a challenge for him at this point). And in the end it makes little sense – dialectical process does not care for you or me, it does not concern itself with the fact of me needing to have time to realize that the previous stages were/are superfluous. Yes, yes, I get the point – Hegel (or the traditional reading of him) says the previous stages are necessary, but what if they aren’t? But they are. Simply flipping every point on its head and wondering what happens is not going to work here, unless the unspoken assumption here is that anything goes, as long as it presents us with some exciting alternative to the dreaded “traditional” view of the matter…

So I can already foresee that while everyone thinks dialectics is about movement (“mobilism”) Žižek is going to “demonstrate” that it really isn’t. Or, that it is much more interesting to imagine that it isn’t. Hegel wasn’t Hegelian, he didn’t die from cholera, Marx was wrong because he missed the point. Lacan understood it all better than anyone else. Two Jews walk into a bar…

7 thoughts on “Reading Žižek’s Less Than Nothing (3)

  1. Dear Mikhail: This is incredibly helpful. I really don’t want to slog through the new Zizek, but am wanting to know what’s in it.

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