The unbearable lightness of Slavoj Žižek’s communism…

While you were sleeping, Žižek wrote about a book. Here it is reviewed in New Statesman by Benjamin Kunkel:

Imagine, in any case, a society whose productive assets are, in one way or another, the property, as Marx said, of “the associated producers”. Such a society might also entail, let’s say, strict depletion quotas for both renewable and non-renewable natural resources; welfare guarantees not only for workers but for people too young, old or ill to work; and democratic bodies, from the level of the enterprise and locality up to that of the state, wherever it hadn’t withered away. These institutions might or might not be complemented by the market. For now, however, to rule markets out of any desirable future while saying next to nothing else about its institutional complexion is to reproduce the intellectual blockage that Žižek and others ascribe to a capitalism that simply can’t imagine how another kind of society might “function”.

On Never Quite Finishing Any of Zizek’s Books

I “discovered” Zizek when I read his small book on Lacan (Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Lacan: But Were Afraid to Ask Hitchcock). It was the summer of 2001, I believe, and I read the whole thing in maybe a week. Then came other Zizek’s “philosophical” books and I sort of read them here and there. Then came the thick ones: I read about a third of The Parallax View (selectively, flipping through chapters). I started In Defense of Lost Causes and read it for a few weeks, never finished it. I read the “blue” one (Living in the End Times) while stuck in a waiting room at a hospital (and then a room at a hospital) but also did not finish it because the hospital stint was over and I put it down as soon as I got home.

I read about 200 pages of Less Than One. I am not likely to ever finish that one either.

Has anyone ever finished a book by Zizek? I mean really read it from cover to cover?

Things That Are Bullshit In This Review of Žižek’s Book

Original is found here.

Pointing out things that are wrong by conflating “I disagree” with “It is not so” is my favorite past time, of course.

1) “He has become the saint of total leftism: a quasi-divine being, than whom none more radical can ever be conceived.” – Nothing of this sort has happened to Žižek. There are plenty of more radical people. And Žižek is probably more criticized from the Left than any other people.

2) “Even if you are attracted by Žižek’s Hegelian fundamentalism, you are bound to wonder how it connects with his spectacular radicalism.” Žižek’s Hegel is far from any “fundamentalist” Hegel (if such even exists), it’s barely Hegel at all. The author might need to revisit “ragged volumes of Hegel and Marx” forgotten on his shelves.

3) “Two hundred years later, Hegel’s view of philosophy is at best a magnificent ruin, and no one can believe in it any more.” This is untrue on so many levels, the authors needs a reality check by looking at books on Hegel from the last 10 years.What does it mean “to believe in a philosophy” anyway? Does anyone “believe” in Plato’s Forms?

4) “He is happy to leave the world to burn while he plays his games of philosophical toy soldiers.” Please, this is rather stupid. This is the sort of idiotic comment one finds in reviews. “The author fails to address the issues that I think he must address!” It’s a book about Hegel, Žižek has plenty to say about other things in other books!

This review is ranked as “full of bullshit”!

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] Continue reading

Reading Žižek’s Less Than Nothing (2)

I am sure that the future reviewers of the book will point it out, but the first three chapters (constituting “The Drink Before” = Part One) are supposedly preparing us for the encounter with Hegel and Lacan (with a final section – “The Cigarette After” = Part Four). Having finished Part One I am not entirely sure what is about to happen in Parts Two and Three. So if it is indeed a “drink before,” than it is entirely unclear what is to follow. I think there is always a general discrepancy in Žižek between the announced structure of the book and the actual content, but in this case we are witnessing a grandiose structure basically coming to nothing, perhaps on purpose, but I doubt it. So we are getting ready for something with a drink – obviously sex, but with who? Hegel or Lacan? Both? Part Three is Hegel, Part Four is Lacan – so we are having sex with them one after another? The reader than is a kind of prostitute, prepared by the pimp (Žižek) with a “drink before” (and maybe some drugs to dull the obvious humiliation) for the encounter with two of his most important johns. Continue reading

Reading Žižek’s Less Than Nothing (1)

Having been away from blogging for a good year or two, I realized that the positive side of that entire endeavor we undertook in 2007 was, in addition to mocking various laughable philosophical trends (there are always many), the chance to write things down for one’s own convenience. I miss that part. Other authors of this glorious outfit found other ways of expressing themselves, but I keep coming back to PE, not willing to just abandon it. I stopped blogging because it became impossible to avoid a certain group of topics. It still is but one must try and move on. The insidious activity of those who took it upon themselves to discredit me and others connected to this venture succeeded only partially in that the vile (and untrue) slander they spread (and are still spreading) only revealed the inherent insecurities of the authors and propagators themselves. As these “scholars” are entering the public sphere in a more or less traditional sense, more and more people come to the same realization that I already had several years ago – these aren’t very pleasant men, they aren’t interested in philosophy as such, their ideas are full of ridiculous holes, they will do (and have done) anything it takes to take down their real and imaginary opponents. And yet they do not quite live up to the level of Shakespearian villains. They are mostly one-dimensional souls, with their own hang-ups and shortcomings. And that’s what makes them human…

Now to Reading Žižek’s Less Than NothingContinue reading

Is Slavoj Zizek more than the pair of carats in his surname?

I’m going to go with probably not.  In a post entitled “Slavoj Zizek wants to See a Bloodbath,” Justin E.H. Smith suggests:

Žižek’s shtick works for a number of reasons among readers who are not ordinarily receptive to calls to the barricades. One is that he is a clown, that he cuts his Leninism with enough sweet stuff about Jennifer Lopez and whatever other trash passes across his hotel TV screens that readers can easily assume to be a put-on every bit that they are not inclined to accept. Another reason, obviously, is the way he plays on his foreignness. He’s been through it, Western readers will tell themselves, and has surely earned the right to hold forth on these matters. But anyone who would joke that the only position he would accept in the Slovenian government is that of chief of secret police evidently has not been through it quite enough. Slovenia was the freest republic of the freest federal state in the socialist bloc: the Switzerland of Yugoslavia, as Slobodan Milošević once scoffed. This does not mean it was always easy to be a Lacanian intellectual in Ljubljana during the Tito era, but the sort of inconvenience Žižek faced is categorically different than, say, the Stalinist show trials in the Soviet Union of the 1930s (made possible, of course, by the secret police).

Žižek, I mean, is not speaking from any particular position of experience when he suggests that there is something to be salvaged from the legacy of the Bolshevik revolution. When he suggests that what is to be salvaged is the very most brutal part of that legacy, moreover, he is just being flippant, and Western readers should not let him get away with it simply on the grounds that he has funny accent marks in his last name.

File Under…

…Things I don’t care about.

Just got this, which didn’t make it through the comment filter (note that he’s making a MAJOR appearance, not just a mere appearance AND the stupid invocation to “hide your tulips.” Ack):

Greetings from Verso Books NYC! Please help us promote this great event by posting it to your blog or adding it to your organization’s calendar of events.

Thanks for your time and support!

Verso Books
Brooklyn, NY

Slavoj Žižek reveals the signs of the coming apocalypse… Continue reading

Adulation + Zizek= Vomiting

I was reading yet another article about Slavoj Zizek this morning–a figure I’ve basically stopped paying attention to for various reasons–and almost vomited when I came across this:

He is very much a thinker for our turbulent, high speed, information-led lives,” says Sophie Fiennes, “precisely because he insists on the freedom to stop and think hard about who you are as an individual in this fragmented society. We need a radical hip priest and Slavoj is that in many ways.”

Good grief (somewhere a single tear is slowly making its way down Wavy Gravy’s cheek). I mean, really. Gag. Thankfully, the author of the article qualifies this idiotic statment, albeit with another nausea inducing gem:

The very thought, I suspect, would have him quaking in his proletarian boots – and free airline socks.

Quaking? Perhaps (isn’t Zizek always “quaking?”)  The phrase “proletarian boots” –clearly an attempt at wit–is just a bit over the top. The author of the article, like most articles about him, wastes a bunch of space discussing  Zizek’s appearence.  Ooh…Proletarian boots, such a fashion statement!  I must march down to the closest TJ Max and get some!  Continue reading

Fresh Zizekiana (Ad Nauseum)

Here are some audio-recordings of Zizek’s master class (June 15-19, 2009) at Birkbeck, courtesy of Backdoor Broadcasting Company (h/t Infinite Thought):

The Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities

The master class analyses phenomena of modern thought and culture with the intention to discern elements of possible Communist culture. It moves at two levels: first, it interprets some cultural phenomena (from today’s architecture to classic literary works like Rousseau’s La Nouvelle Heloise) as failures to imagine or enact a Communist culture; second, it explores attempts at imagining how a Communist culture could look, from Wagner’s Ring to Kafka’s and Beckett’s short stories and contemporary science fiction novels.