Our favorite recent kerfuffle returns with Zizek’s response to Adam Kirsch in The New Republic:
I am grateful to Mr. Kirsch for the time and effort he put into running over so many of my books in order to find incriminating passages that would support his thesis on my anti-Semitic Fascism-Communism.
Adam Kirsch returns the favor.
But Zizek’s attitude towards Judaism is not the major problem with his thought, and it was not the main subject of my essay. The major problem is his glorification of totalitarianism and political violence.
Basic translation: “You are misreading me, Sir!” – “No, I am not”
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.
Josh Strawn from Jewcy.com writes a first – first I really enjoyed, I should add – thoughtful response to the Kirsch vs. Zizek brouhaha:
Nowhere is the problem with Kirsch’s analysis more apparent than in his attacks on the recent book ‘Violence.’ He tells his readers that Zizek means to tell us that “resistance to the liberal-democratic order is so urgent that it justifies any degree of violence.” Not so. The author is very clear. He says that his intent is to expand our conceptual understanding of violence beyond it’s more obvious eruptions. He wants to explain violence not as merely the act of violence with which we’re most viscerally and morally aware (what he calls ‘subjective’ violence), but more thoroughly–as inclusive of the network of relations and circumstances that make that violence possible (he calls this ‘objective’ violence). Sure Zizek quotes Lenin’s directive to “Learn, learn, learn.” That doesn’t make him a Bolshevik.
Couldn’t say it better meself…
UPDATE: Larval Subjects has an interesting discussion of the matter here and here.
An article from the next The New Republic on Zizek finally puts all things Zizek in their places and reveals the secret of “what Zizek really believes” – intrigued?
Last year the Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek published a piece in The New York Times deploring America’s use of torture to extract a confession from Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the Al Qaeda leader who is thought to have masterminded the attacks of September 11. The arguments that Zizek employed could have been endorsed without hesitation by any liberal-minded reader. Yes, he acknowledged, Mohammed’s crimes were “clear and horrifying”; but by torturing him the United States was turning back the clock on centuries of legal and moral progress, reverting to the barbarism of the Middle Ages. We owe it to ourselves, Zizek argued, not to throw away “our civilization’s greatest achievement, the growth of our spontaneous moral sensitivity.” […] Continue reading