Žižek Žižek


One of the weirdest things in Žižek’s books is the large amount of editorial failures – and I don’t mean the editors who read his books, I doubt such people exist or have any say in the matter. I mean the sorts of errors where he repeats himself word-for-word. I almost gave up while reading Less Than Nothing, but finally we have one only 200 pages in:

In the same way, a radical revolution does (what previously appeared as) the impossible and thereby creates its own precursors—this, perhaps, is the most succinct definition of what an authentic act is. Such an act proper should be located in the trilogy etc etc [209]

But what about the retroactivity of a gesture which (re)constitutes this past itself? This, perhaps, is the most succinct definition of what an authentic act is: in our ordinary activity, we effectively just follow etc etc [214]

Only 5 pages apart. Repeated down to “perhaps” and the italicized “act” – too much cutting and pasting, I suspect. I really hope that his next book is 2000 pages in 3 volumes.

14 thoughts on “Žižek Žižek

  1. I must admit, that is rather strange, but I think Zizek has been writing in English for some time, so you’re probably reading the original. Perhaps it’s a kind of Deleuze/Guattarian refrain? Sorry I can offer no better answer, but I would be that’s exactly what the “original” text says…

    • I’m not suggesting it’s a translation issue, just lack of attention to details – it’s understandable, this book is a 1000 pages long. The case of verbatim repetition is probably an indication no one really seriously proof-reads these rants for the most part. And it sounds too alike for any kind of refrain. It’s a minor point. Much worse I think are repetitions of entire jokes and illustrations, entire points actually, from other books…

  2. He has one approach to writing and it was described perfectly in Ernesto Laclau’s introduction to The Sublime Object;

    ‘a series of theoretical interventions which shed mutual light on each other, not in terms of the progression of an argument, but in terms of what we would call the reiteration of the latter in different discursive contexts.’

    . .which is the overly nice way of describing how he ‘writes’. Zizek himself has described his process as just writing about stuff he’s seen or read as a form of procrastination, in order to not write a book. When he has several hundred pages he puts it all together and says, ‘Hey look I wrote another book!’. There’s several interviews where he laughs about his method.

    • That sounds about right. I don’t mind it as much as I appear to do. I think if he can get away with this sort of “writing” it’s fine. But I also think there is a streak of “serious” scholarship somewhere in his attempts to write a “serious” book on Hegel, despite all the posturing in the opening pages of this book. I like that he challenges the notion of what a “serious” book on Hegel should be like, but there is still a sense that perhaps one should see some sort of development from book to book. The only development I see if less editing and more pages. However, if he doesn’t claim to do anything else, then I guess it’s fine.

  3. “This, perhaps, is the most succinct definition of what an authentic act is”: it seems absurd enough to repeat “the most x of something y” already, but the perhaps gives a kind of ionesco feeling to it.

  4. I talked to Z at the book-launch in London yesterday. As someone who’s been studying Lacan, I told him how I enjoyed most the chapter on sexual difference and the bit on Yad’l’Un in the first chapter. He said to me, “Ah, you’re not stupid like them! Yes, that’s the real stuff. All the other stuff in the book is a rehashing.” So, he kind of admits the repetition you mention (not that admitting it absolves him).

    So, despite his claim that LTN is a “serious” work, I guess it’s more correct to say that it has “serious” parts within it. The chapters are more like stand-alone essays and can be read as such, giving it the quality of a fragmentary work, rather than that of a unified one. But, I presume writing a unified 1000-page book is a difficult task for anyone, let alone a tangential writer like Zizek.

    What surprised me most with regard to editorial side of things is that there is no acknowledgment to other publishers, even when whole chapters are lifted from his other books. The example I have in mind is the Fichte chapter, which is the same as the one found in Mythology, Madness, and Laughter, which was published on Continuum. It seems quite cheeky of Verso to do that. The two contributions by Zizek in The Speculative Turn are also incorporated into LTN. Many passages from The Monstrosity of Christ are reprinted in it too. I know that self-plagiarism is a grey area, and even if Zizek doesn’t care, Verso should. The lack of a bibliography also frustrated me — Verso did the index, so why not the bibliography?

    But LTN does succeed in establishing the relevance of Hegel for the 21st century, and so achieves what it set out to do. So on its own criteria, it is an accomplishment. For that, I have to congratulate Zizek.

    • I don’t disagree – it’s his book and my complaints are mostly petty. I didn’t realize how much stuff is reused, I’m not a great expert in all things Zizekian.

      However, if the only achievement of the book is establishing that Hegel is relevant for the 21st century, then I’m afraid it’s not an achievement at all since this was a well known fact that Hegel indeed is very much relevant. Most of the stuff so far – and admittedly I’m only about 200 or so pages into it – is derivative from other people (openly so, so no need to object to “borrowing”). The majority of stuff so far is taken from Lebrun.

      I suppose there comes a time when reading a lot of Zizek – 1000 pages – is a curse rather than a blessing. Zizek is good in small doses. I would say that he certainly tries to frame this as one book in the opening section. So either he really did intend it as one and failed, or he didn’t and therefore was being disingenuous about the overal aim. Either way it sucks for the readers…

  5. Pingback: “Your inner life is a joke” (Žižek) | Perverse Egalitarianism

  6. Pingback: The Year of Writing Dangerously: Slavoj Žižek’s serial self-plagiarism | the first casualty

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