“They reject the concept of fruit, but they want apples, plums and strawberries.”

Not everything that comes from Žižek’s pen is worth reading but this is an interesting piece considering the quote above which is, I hope, an allusion to Hegel’s famous dictum:

“That delusive mode of reasoning which regards diversity alone, and from doubt of or aversion to the particular form in which a Universal finds its actuality, will not grasp or even allow this universal nature, I have elsewhere likened to an invalid recommended by the doctor to eat fruit, and who has cherries, plums or grapes, before him, but who pedantically refuses to take anything because no part of what is offered him is fruit, some of it being cherries, and the rest plums or grapes.” (Lectures on the History of Philosophy, Volume 1)

[Jenes Ausreden und Räsonnement, das sich an die bloße Verschiedenheit festhält und aus Ekel oder Bangigkeit vor der Besonderheit, in der ein Allgemeines wirklich ist, nicht diese Allgemeinheit ergreifen oder anerkennen will, habe ich anderswo mit einem Kranken verglichen, dem der Arzt Obst zu essen anrät und dem man Kirschen oder Pflaumen oder Trauben vorsetzt, der aber in einer Pedanterie des Verstandes nicht zugreift, weil keine dieser Früchte Obst sei, sondern die eine Kirschen, die andere Pflaumen oder Trauben. Werke, 18:37]

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”.

The Radical Retroactivity of the Dialectical Process

Romney gets grief for his “retroactive retirement” comment (well, not his, but his adviser’s) but that only shows that the masses are not dialectically inclined. His campaign is just trying to follow most recent musings by Žižek – behold: 

Is not the dialectical process the temporal deployment of an eternal set of potentialities, which is why the Hegelian System is a self-enclosed set of necessary passages? This mirage of overwhelming evidence dissipates, however, the moment we fully take into account the radical retroactivity of the dialectical process: the process of becoming is not in itself necessary, but is the becoming (the gradual contingent emergence) of necessity itself. This is also (among other things) what “to conceive substance as subject” means: the subject as the Void, the Nothingness of self-relating negativity, is the very nihil out of which every new figure emerges; in other words, every dialectical passage or reversal is a passage in which the new figure emerges ex nihilo and retroactively posits or creates its necessity. [Less Than Nothing, 231]

Romney’s constant double mind about issues (“flip-flopping”) is clearly a sign of his dialectical sensibilities. And now with retroactivity entering the discussion, it is clear that his is in fact the best dialectician of our time!

Endorsement Funnies

So Zizek’s Living in the End Time arrived, I know, I know, but I was reading Zizek way before he was cool, so, like an old fan of some hair-metal band, I keep buying his ‘records’ hoping that the next one will surely be a ‘comeback record’ – on the front cover is the endorsement “The most dangerous philosopher in the West” from Adam Kirsch’s hit piece in The New Republic. It was meant as a put down, of course, but here it is, taken as an endorsement. Can you do that? Did Kirsch have to give his permission? Or is it a citation from The New Republic so it’s all good?

This have to be a sign of the “end times” – what is this world coming to if one’s abusive remark can no longer be safe from being used as an endorsement?

What does it mean to be a revolutionary today?

Here’s another excellent conversation between Alex Callinicos and everyone’s favorite bad boy Slavoj Zizek (whose talk is, of course, twice as long) – in related news, Reid Kant of Planomenology has a post related to the idea of revolution –  I have posted these before, but now you can watch them with High-Definition quality, I hope you enjoy these videos: Continue reading

More Zizek

Looks like it’s Zizek all the way these days: Apocalyptic Times.

There’s a variety of reactions to Zizek’s appearance on HardTalk. Some are interesting, some are silly. I was particularly disappointed by comments like this:

It is sometimes too easy for us to think that Zizek was misunderstood or stitched up but we are still presented with a very real problem: if Zizek cannot get across his views in an interview like this what chance do his views have in their potential to make change? Precisely who is Zizek for? And by feeding into increasingly obtuse readings do we not simply make ourselves obsolete from the political scene? This is where I see a kind of reverse disavowal: we too are opting out creating a ‘faux-communism’ whose definition has become, and I’m being honest here, pretty damn obscure.

Sorry, Paul, but this is very likely the most ridiculous comment in the history of commenting – one might not agree with Zizek, but to say that he is in any way obtuse or cannot get his views across in the form of sound bites is to reveal an amazing ignorance of all things Zizek. Plus, the idea that only simple and presentable views can “make change” is just odd – there go Hegel and Marx, apparently their utter inability to be presentable doomed them to obscurity…

Zizek on Hardtalk

It’s here for 7 days, but you have to be in a certain area to watch it online. I’m sure there’s a YouTube video somewhere out there. Whoever the guy interviewing Zizek is kind of annoyingly interruptive, but Zizek needs that sort of person, otherwise he will talk forever.

I mean the interviewer’s obvious bias is quite clear – “you call yourself a Communist, but Communism sucks!” – plus in the end he ends up talking too much (at least for a Zizek-type encounter), so it’s kind of stupid, but it’s a Zizek-sighting so I must post about it.

How Would We Know The Significance of Anything Without Him?

Slavoj Žižek on the twentieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall:

It is commonplace, 20 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, to hear the events of that time described as miraculous, a dream come true, something one couldn’t have imagined even a couple of months beforehand. Free elections in Poland with Lech Walesa as president: who would have thought it possible? But an even greater miracle took place only a couple of years later: free democratic elections returned the ex-Communists to power, Walesa was marginalised and much less popular than General Jaruzelski himself

This reversal is usually explained in terms of the ‘immature’ expectations of the people, who simply didn’t have a realistic image of capitalism: they wanted to have their cake and eat it, they wanted capitalist-democratic freedom and material abundance without having to adapt to life in a ‘risk society’ – i.e. without losing the security and stability (more or less) guaranteed by the Communist regimes. When the sublime mist of the ‘velvet revolution’ had been dispelled by the new democratic-capitalist reality, people reacted in one of three ways: with nostalgia for the ‘good old days’ of Communism; by embracing right-wing nationalist populism; with belated anti-Communist paranoia. The first two reactions are easy to understand, and they often overlap (as in today’s Russia). The same rightists who, decades ago, were shouting ‘Better dead than red!’ are now often heard mumbling ‘Better red than eating hamburgers.’ The nostalgia for Communism shouldn’t be taken too seriously: far from expressing an actual wish to return to a grey Socialist reality, it is a form of mourning, of gently getting rid of the past. And nationalist populism, far from being peculiar to Eastern Europe, is a common feature of all countries caught in the vortex of globalisation.