What about Slavoj Žižek?

“The dialectics of history were such that the theoretical victory of Marxism compelled its enemies to disguise themselves as Marxists.” – V. I. Lenin, The Historical Destiny of the Doctrine of Karl Marx

“Pre-Marxian socialism has been defeated. It is continuing the struggle, no longer on its own independent ground, but on the general ground of Marxism, as revisionism.” – V. I. Lenin, Marxism and Revisionism 

Someone asked me today what I think of Slavoj Žižek, the well known celebrity of “leftist” philosophy. I’ve always had a hard time reading his rambling, jargon-filled books. I have to admit, having tried to read a couple of his books back when I was a philosophy student (my focus was on HegelAlthusser and Badiou) I found Žižek mostly incomprehensable. Most recently I read his book First As Tragedy, Then As Farce. I was disappointed that he basically follows the “islamo-fascism” line on Arab resistance movements like Hezbollah, the capitalist restoration line on People’s China, and basically gets his facts wrong on any number of other points. He believes the socialist project in the twentieth century was mainly a giant failure. I see no real value in his writings.

Slavoj Žižek likes to pose as some kind of "stalinist."

That said, I’d like to share an article here on Žižek, from the blog Never Forget Class Struggle for consideration:

Slavoj Žižek: A Case Study in Opportunism

I don’t pretend to understand Dr. Žižek’s “Lacanian” “post-Maoist” philosophy or critiques of popular culture or whatever it is that he does. All I know is that he pretends he’s some kind of adherent to some form of Marxism Leninism and “Maoism” and people seem to have an impression of him as a genuinely progressive academic. When it counted, however, Žižek was an unabashed leader of counterrevolution in his homeland of Slovenia. Žižek in fact fought to destroy the system he claims he now supports, or at the very least that people he now admires (Lenin, Mao) fought so hard to build. Žižek during the era of socialism was one of the prominent members of the “dissident” circles advocating for its destruction. In the late 1980s he joined the secessionist anti-socialist movement developing in Slovenia, and become an active member of the Liberal Democratic Party (who came to power once Slovenia seceded from the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia). He was not just a passive participant in this movement, since he was the candidate for the position of President of Slovenia for the LDP in 1990.

People like to taunt socialists about the supposed “misnomers” characterizing a lot of the formal names of the regimes of socialist countries (for instance, there is always a chortle about the name ‘Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’). However, the name “Liberal Democratic Party” of Slovenia is a joke. For one, these cold blooded killers murdered members of the multi-ethnic JNA (Jugoslovenska Narodna Armija – Yugoslav National Army) in cold blood, simply for being stationed in their own country. There is video footage of Slovenian nationalists gunning down JNA soldiers waving white flags. The “liberal democrats” then proceded to steal the bank accounts of non-Slovenes who had bank deposits in the banks of Ljubljana. Ljubljana (the capital of Slovenia), was the banking center of Yugoslavia. The Ljubljana banks avoided paying back money to their non-Slovene depositers by simply changing the name of the bank, and saying the new bank should not be held responsible for the previous accounts. The LDP quickly went to work dismantling the socially owned economy in their new ‘republic’, undoing what had been built for generations. This included workers’ self-management, directing authority back into the hands of the capitalists.

This is the movement with which Dr. Žižek became an integral part, and even led. Of course, Žižek had also been a member of the Communist Party of Slovenia at times. He seems to have done whatever it took to ensure that he himself would be of influence and power. He claims he left the Party because of the trial of four people by the JNA in the late 1980s. The Slovene Communists had nothing to do with that trial and in fact implemented the “punishment” in the mildest manner possible. The fact is Žižek was writing anti-Communist diatribes for decades.

Since socialism has been dismantled in many parts of the world, parroting the line of his new masters is no longer new or novel. He must do something different in order to get attention. So he tries to meld his Lacanian gibberish with some kind of revolutionary politics. The question is: where was Slavoj Žižek when it counted? He was on the side of counterrevolution. An old wine in a new bottle is a still an old wine.

About these ads

65 responses to “What about Slavoj Žižek?

  1. You have to admit that his bedroom is pretty cool, though.

  2. Andrei Kuznetsov

    Zizek is a mixed bag in my limited experience. I agree that most of his work is VERY hard to understand- I’ve never really gotten it- and as a MARXIST he is certainly not very good. I did not know that he was involved with the LDP!

    However, as a film and literary critic he is quite good and I think that there may be still things to learn from the man, even if he is not a Communist.

  3. To simply call Lacanian theory gibberish suggests that you haven’t read much of it. It’s dense, sometimes irrelevant, but like any philosophical system, it has its merits.

    • Matt,

      The main point of this article is not to argue that Lacanian theory is gibberish, but rather that Žižek is a phoney Marxist and an opportunist.

      I actually have read and studied Lacan a fair amount. I never got into the Seminars, but I did read many of the essays in Écrits: A Selection as I was studying Althusser and Badiou (I was a philosophy student, as I said above), and I’ve always had a hard time pinpointing just what those merits are that you refer to, at least as his ideas relate to Marxism. And while I find much in Althusser to agree with, and think Badiou is somewhat interesting, I don’t find much in Žižek to like.

      How does mixing Lacanian psychoanalysis with Marxism (as Žižek sets out to do) benefit Marxism?

      Anyway, you say Lacanianism has some merit, and I tend to doubt it. As an advance of Freud, I would agree, but not in relation to Marxism. I would be happy to hear you explain what you think are the merits of Lacanian theory to Marxism actually are.

  4. I think you over and also underestimate Zizek for some reason. of course, he can not be said as a one of those traditional Marxist that would be repeated many rhetoric that come from the past experience, but as a someone (if you refuse him to be called as a marxist, even though on many occasion he would call himself as a hardline marxist :P) with plenty agreement with the marxist ideas of emancipatory project, i think we can learn something from him. his attempt to intepret hegel and also dialectical materialism in our contemporary even, through Lacan’s psychoanalysis, at least give us a possibility to deal with any radical act towards emancipation after the fall of the “really exiting socialism” of the soviet union. but the main problem that come from Zizek’s point of view, for me, is his lack of any concrete programmatic idea. if he proclaim himself as a materialist, he should also targeting his explanation into concrete pratice. that’s, once again for me, the only way to attack his position is through seeing in limitation of his conception.

  5. It is sometimes amazing to see the kinds of arguments that can be taken seriously.

    In general, you have to judge people by their main work. I.e. you have to judge an artist’s art to sum them up. Or analyze a philosopher’s philosophy to understand how to approach them.

    You can’t look at someone’s personal life, or their passing political engagements, and think that (on that basis) you can situate and dismiss their actual work.

    To start a summation of a philosopher by announcing that you can’t understand his philosophy, is to start with a confession that you should perhaps be quiet on the subject of Zizek, and listen instead to those who took the time to dig into his actual work.

    Second, the questions of political change in Eastern Europe are (obviously) quite complex — old forms collapsed in utter unpopularity, new ones emerged (drenched in illusions about the west) — people engaged in political life in complex ways that are often hard to evaluate from afar. But here too, the author is not cowed by lack of knowledge or insight. Everything is simple, and because things are so simple, the work of the essay is simple: We simply stand Zizek up next to our pre-fabricated thermometer of correctness, and he falls short.

    Third, there is a final underlying simplistic argument: There is only one communism, and we are it. So if anyone (anywhere) claims to be a communist and don’t agree with us, then they are a liar, and opportunist, a phony, and need to be exposed. So really you don’t need to actually understand ANYONE or their thinking — you just need a check list of YOUR OWN THOUGHTS. And then you compare everyone to this checklist of your own (pre-chewed) verdicts, and you can evaluate them (without knowing much about their work, their change-over-time, their context, their self-criticism, or anything else). Everything can be known and judged by grasping (more deeply) your OWN IDEAS.

    This is a method that can be quickly taught. We can each create a checklist of our own assumptions — and train others to evaluate everybody and everything against that. And since OUR assumptions are right, we can quickly uncover that everyone else is a phony and a pig. And the best part is you don’t have to do any real work — you don’t have to read or understand Zizek to reject him.

    this exact same method was used (by the way) by the RCP in their evaluation of Badiou: They ignored his philosophy, they didn’t discuss his theories of the event or multiple-of-multiples. They made a checklist of Avakian’s beliefs, and compared Badou’s POLITICAL utterances (scetchy, ambiguous, secondary) to Avakian’s political views. Badiou and Avakian don’t agree — so they can quickly sum up that Badiou is a dangerous force that leads people away from the true path (which we can identify by making a list of Avakian’s suggestions.)

    It is the method of self-encapsulation. It assumes we have nothing to learn. And further it assumes that only people who agree with us POLITICALLY have anything to learn from (philosophically, factually, or in other means).

    The idea that someone could have a terrible political practice (like Heidigger) and still make major insights philosophically is simply rejected out of hand.

    There is a name for this method: it is know-nothingism. It is a dumbing down of everything. And, worse, it makes you unable to undestand the world you live in, and encapsulates you in your own tentative and fragmentary assumptions so you can’t even learn from others.

    And I imagine, by applying this same mathod, some readers will dismiss my comment the same way. Luckily, most people have a sense of how terribly mind-numbing such methods are, and are interested in actually understanding what others are thinking and doing (including Zizek).

  6. I particularly like this logic:

    “Anyway, you say Lacanianism has some merit, and I tend to doubt it.”

    Default position: It is all shit. And my stuff is sufficient.

    What a small, cloistered, encapsulated world this kind of thinking is.

    And the idea that you would post and comment on whole schools of thought and philosophy — without reading or understanding them (based solely on your suspicion that they are petty bourgeois crap) is remarkable.

    It is a form of identity politics (i.e. “it is emanating from petty bourgeous academics… you know how those people are.”) So you can judge ideas by the identity of their formulators.

    This is tied, in many ways, with idnetity politics — and often takes the form of working class identity politics. (i.e. the idea of the middle classes are anti-working class ideas, so we really can judge without knowing.)

    Think of the method: judge without knowning.

    Compare that with Marxism, with materialist dialectics, with simple insights like “no investigation, no right to speak.”

    bill martin says that the purpose of such superficial dismissal is not to explain an opposing view, and expose it by dissecting it. It is instead to avoid the whole problem by having readers NOT read it. “Look at this, it tastes terrible,” that is Bill’s quip — i.e. Zizek is discussed (and essentially smeared) here without any serious dscussion of his life’s work, his philosophy, or the parts of his work that have influence — and the purpose is not to raise anyone’s consciousness about these key issues (or even to refute his theories), but to AVOID the problem by having readers decide not to bother with Zizek.

    The purpose is to turn people off, not to raise their consciousness.

    A method like that will never produce a creative revolutionary movement.

  7. Finally:

    The whole argument here rests on the assumption that Slovenia was socialist, and that Zizek was part of some counterrevolutionary destruction of that socialism.

    This is wrong on many levels — but this article doesn’t even bother to state its assumption. It simply proceeds as if no one knows that it is controversial (to put it mildly) to view Slovenia (and Tito’s Yugoslavia) as a socialist country.

    I wrote a whole analysis of this, including the particular role of slovenia in the development of Yugoslavian capitalism.

    The authors here (obviojsly) don’t have to agree with that analysis, but they do, in fact, have to deal with the fact that communists have viewed Yugoslavia as capitalist for sixty years.

    One of Mao’s most famous essays (and an opening shot of his theoretical work on capitalist restoration) was the letter “Is Yugoslavia Socialist?” (written in the early 60s) where he answers “No.” and explains why.

    You can reject the whole history of revolutionary analysis of capitalist restoration. You can uphold the oppressive developments of Slovenia, and Yugoslavia and anywhere else in the world.

    But you can’t actually write a whole essay that assumes that Slovenia is socialist without even bothering to make an argument — or denounce Mao’s theories, or make some (superficial? passing?) explanation of why anyone in the world should take that proposition seriously.

    For those interested in actually reading and learning:

    http://kasamaproject.org/2009/04/06/how-capitalism-caused-the-balkan-wars/

  8. Mike E. raises many important points even if his tone is a little hard on you. While I don’t know anything about the politics of Slovenia and what the LDP did, I do know that I’ve found Zizek’s work very helpful to my perspective. I read Althusser and Zizek at around the same time and their insights supplemented each other’s. More importantly, I have taught brief excerpts from his writing in college composition and my students have found his stories and arguments both illuminating and ideologically challenging. If the man is a hypocrite and an opportunist, then that is certainly important to know and I thank you for bringing it out, but that does not equal the assertion that his work is not important to read.

  9. So you think there was socialism in Yugoslavia? Maybe you can put Tito up there on your masthead. Put him right between Stalin and Mao – that would be a real love-fest!

    If you’re gonna be a dogmatist you better get it clear what dogma you’re dogging to.

  10. This essay refers to events from two decades ago. Basic research would have revealed that Zizek himself has criticized his liberal politics from that period. But who needs research when they have orthodoxy to rely on?

    “I was disappointed that he basically follows the “islamo-fascism” line on Arab resistance movements like Hezbollah, the capitalist restoration line on People’s China, and basically gets his facts wrong on any number of other points. He believes the socialist project in the twentieth century was mainly a giant failure. I see no real value in his writings.”

    Translation: he doesn’t agree with us, no need to understand why a self-proclaimed communist would take such counter-intuititive positions, or to consider that he may have a point, or even be correct.

    “The fact is Žižek was writing anti-Communist diatribes for decades.”

    Considering the prior admission that the author doesn’t even try to understand Zizek’s writing, I find this astounding. Not to mention dishonest, since Zizek has been working to place Lenin at the forefront of political discussion in the last few years.

  11. I find it interesting that Mr. Ely’s definition of “work” evidently doesn’t include the on the ground “work” one does to fight for or against socialism. The only “work” that apparently matters is what one writes or purports to believe on paper. You can do whatever you want, as long as you write long theoretical tracts claiming to be Marxist. You can work for a neoliberal party whose platform is the complete privatization of the economy and the development of chauvinist nationalism, but if you say nice things about Mao, you’re considered a real comrade!

    It is rather baffling that Mr. Ely cites the sectarian attacks on Yugoslavia by the CCP (talk about simplifying something complex and making checklists) decades ago as “proof” that Yugoslavia wasn’t socialist, but yet Dr. Zizek campaigning for a chauvinist, neoliberal party that completely privatized the Slovene economy and helped usher in civil war doesn’t disqualify the sterling Marxist credentials of his hero. Surely Dr. Zizek’s pals in the LDP deviated from Ely’s (hypocritically) puritanical version of communism more so than Tito’s socially owned worker self-management based version of Marxism-Leninism did. Why the mind boggling double standards? It would be one thing if Zizek’s counterrevolutionary antics were done under the guise of moving Yugoslavia away from ‘revisionism’ and back toward the “Maoist” road, but looking at his “work” during his dissident days it is crystal clear that this was not what he was doing. It is also not what he did after socialism in Yugoslavia had long collapsed, as he continued to help out his neoliberal buddies in the LDP.

    Mr. Ely’s doubletalk and sand shifting positions are tiring to keep up with. So far here is what can conclude from his arguments.

    1-Simplifying something complex is wrong, but feel free to resort to the ultra simplified and formulaic – ‘revisionism = capitalist restoration’ version of history.

    2-It’s ok to condemn Yugoslavia according to a “checklist” of pre-conceived Marxist principles, but not theoreticians that Dr. Ely favors. This is because the only good ideological checklists are ones conceived by Mao and the CCP before 1976. All other checklists are examples of “dogmatism” and “religion”.

    3-Neoliberalism and national chauvinism are less counterrevolutionary, or at least more acceptable, than a version of Marxism-Leninism that deviates from Maoism

    Since Ely was positively apoplectic that I didn’t address the Revisionism = Counterrevolution line re: Yugoslavia, I’ll do so in a bit.

  12. “You can’t look at someone’s personal life, or their passing political engagements, and think that (on that basis) you can situate and dismiss their actual work.”

    I tend to think that what people actively support in the real world outside of writings – parties, political movements, concrete things that they have done to advance the cause of the working class and oppressed peoples – is someone’s “actual work”, not simply what they scribble down. Saying you’re a communist doesn’t cover up that you in fact supported anti-communists. You can’t just give yourself a label if you don’t practice what you preach, so to speak.

  13. Wow. I really do not know where to begin on this ludicrous post. As a student in Philosophy, Political Science and Theology(yes Theology) I have had to engage with Zizek’s work many many times. I am gonna skip over the fluff with his political work in the Liberal Party and suggest you look up his own comments on his past.

    I am gonna have to oversimplify this to the core, summing up the work of a thinker like Zizek is hard to do. In short, he is a Communist. Zizek tries to challenge the Liberal census that all collective movements are inherently totalitarian, the notion that under the core of our actions regardless of political beliefs and “ideology” we are all humans who need to get along, criticizes the idea of tolerance in multiculturism as hiding a much greater racism, and calls for a return to the Marxist critique of political economy and the dictactorship of the proletariat.

    In regards especially to the last point, Zizek looks to Lenin, Mao and the other revolutionary leaders of the past, not to do the same as they did in the past but rather interpret their ideas and what they would say to us today. This can be found in the majority of his writings, I recommend you look to his analysis found in the preface to Lenin’s “Writing from 1917″ and Mao’s “On Practice and Contradiction”.

    In his work “In defense of lost causes” he outlines the Dictactorship of the Proletariat as he sees it should happen today. I was gonna type it out for you but I am now pressed for time. So shortly, on Lacan(as a Lacanian myself) he uses Lacanian Psychoanalysis to analyze how modern Capitalism works on the unconscious which in turns benefits Marxist theory(although the psychoanalytic method can be limiting at times.)

    If you wish I will go more in-depth later however I am preparing to go camping for the weekend so I cannot say more as of yet but respond if you want to discuss this further when I get back. Comrade Sykes you recommended me two insightful books in the past so I recommend you check out some more of Zizek’s works such as his newest “Living in the End Times”. You should give him more thought as he is one of the few true Marxists left in academic Philosophy. I wish I could go more in-depth but I cannot at the time. So message me back! And in Zizek’s own words at the end of an interview on the pop culture show “I will see you either in Hell or in Communism!”
    Regards,
    Tyler

  14. If Lacanian philosophy is not gibberish, and actually has something of value to add to Marxism, perhaps Ely could explain to us Lacan’s ridiculous ideas about the relationship between the square root of negative one and the male penis, and how this relates to how we’re gonna overthrow capitalism.

  15. Ely's best friend

    If I spent all my time reading garbage (Kasama, Zizek, etc), I wouldn’t have time to actually engage in struggle. The truth is it doesn’t take much reading of Zizek to understand what he is and what he represents, just as it doesn’t take much reading of Kasama to get what the ex-Avakian cultists are all about. You are both thoroughly and utterly reactionary. You both love the “Green” (counter)-revolution. You both hate actually existing socialism. You both hate Marxism-Leninism. You’re both massive failures when it comes to actually doing anything meaningful.

    Why should I spend money on his books, to read gibberish about German toilets reflecting the personality of the German people? What kind of stupid ‘nation-metaphysics’ is this?

  16. This whole conversation is ironic, considering Ely’s earlier protests against the Comintern “universalizing” the Soviet model on everyone, but whatever.

    The question of Yugoslav socialism is not as straight forward as the sectarian critique “Is Yugoslavia a Socialist Country?” would have you believe. Indeed, the Maoists themselves never had a clear position on this issue, as they vacillated between recognition of Yugoslavia as a socialist country and sectarian opposition, change which was dependent on Chinese relations with the Soviet Union, not ideology. For example, while Yugoslavia was one of the first countries to recognize the PRC in 1949, Mao didn’t reciprocate due to the split with the USSR. However in late 1954 the CCP reestablished party to party relations with the “renegade” Tito, which effectively meant recognition of Yugoslavia as a socialist country. In 1958, after the League of Communists of Yugoslavia published its draft before its party Congress in April, Yugoslavia came under fire from first and foremost the “revisionist” (or in Ely’s view, “capitalist” Soviet Union. Following the USSR’s lead, China began polemical attacks against Yugoslavia and broke off party to party relations. In the early 1960s, the Sino-Soviet split began to be open and Yugoslav-Soviet relations improved. Chinese anti-Yugoslavism stemmed from the view that Yugoslavia was too close to Moscow. As a result, relations remained frosty until the late 1960s (, at the height of the Cultural Revolution. The main reason for this is due to Yugoslav support for Czechoslovakia against the USSR. Relations from 1970-1977 were quite friendly, or at least not hostile. No longer would we hear any complaints about Tito from Mao. In 1977 Hua Guofeng, who most anti-revisionists uphold as a staunch Marxist-Leninist, reopened party to party relations with Yugoslavia – which again meant recognition of Yugoslavia as a socialist country. Not coincidentally at this time, Sino-Soviet relations were cold.

    Now – what of Yugoslav revisionism itself? First I must discuss the origins of the Yugoslav-Soviet split, and the expulsion of Yugoslav from the Cominform in 1948. The misconception about this event is that the expulsion itself was caused by Yugoslavia’s revisionist deviations. This is incorrect. Revisionism in Yugoslavia took place as a result of their expulsion, it was not the cause. In 1948 Yugoslavia was the most “orthodox” of all the new socialist countries in Europe. Indeed if one looks at the letters written back and forth between the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia in 1948, one can see that the Yugoslav Communists insisted that there were not following “their own road” to socialism. Later, they would say they were, yes. The 1946 Yugoslavia constitution was a carbon copy of the Soviet constitution of 1936. By 1948, Yugoslavia had moved farther on the path of collectivization of agriculture than any other Eastern European socialist state. They were virtually alone among socialist states at being almost totally collectivized in this sector [check out Ivo Banac's book - With Stalin Against Tito, to verify this]. Yugoslavia also established a more firm dictatorship of the proletariat against collaborators, and bourgeois forces than most, if not all, other new socialist countries. They tried hardest root out bourgeois influence from the country.
    In 1948 Tito also did not question Soviet leadership over the socialist bloc, as is alleged. Soviet leaders from 1945-1947 stressed Yugoslavia’s loyalty. Yugoslavia made the Soviet-Yugoslav alliance its central foreign policy tenet. They were so loyal that it was Yugoslavia who most fiercely criticized Poland’s Gomulka at the 1946 Cominform meeting (which was held in Belgrade!) for his deviations from the Marxist-Leninist line. The Soviets held Yugoslavia up to other Eastern European countries as a role model.
    The source of the expulsion from the Cominform was not revisionist economic policies or anything of the sort, but rather a conflict about the proper policy towards the Greek Civil War. Tito wanted to intervene and help the Greek revolutionaries defeat the imperialists. Stalin, ever cautious in his European foreign policy just after the war, was against intervention because he did not want to give the imperialists an excuse to attack the socialist bloc. Even after the Tito and Yugoslavia were expelled in 1948, Tito insisted that Yugoslavia’s “unwavering loyalty to the science of Marx-Engels-Lenin-Stalin prove in practice that we (the KPJ) do not deviate from the path of that science”
    Now – and this is important – as things became nasty after Yugoslavia’s expulsion, the socialist countries implemented a blockade on Yugoslavia from 1948-1954. That means no trade. Yugoslavia was then forced to increase its trade with the capitalist countries enormously and adjust its economic policies. It didn’t have much of choice. Yugoslavia is/was much smaller than either China or the Soviet Union, it cannot afford to be dependent on one or another country for essential goods, else it be cut off like it was in 1948 and be utterly devastated. The expulsion in 1948 had the effect of throwing Yugoslava into the clutches of revisionism. None the less at the time of 1963, when this polemic was written, Yugoslavia’s industry and trade was nearly totally socialized, while its agriculture was 15% socialized. Yugoslavia is criticized for giving up on any program of collectivized agriculture, but yet this model was followed by Cuba – the one socialist country that the Ely types don’t denounce as capitalist but rather a “work in progress”. Cuba never collectivized agriculture and Castro has repeatedly said to do so would be a terrible idea. Once again there are double standards about these things.
    One must ask what do the anti-revisionists who actually live in Yugoslavia think about this question? After all we were scolded by Mr. Ely that comments made without ‘investigation’ hold little weight. The CCP didn’t investigate the conditions of Yugoslavia first hand in 1963 (or earlier), but nevertheless felt they could attack it. The leading anti-revisionist party in the former Yugoslavia today is the NKPJ – New Communist Party of Yugoslavia. They state, “The NKPJ is strongly against Titoism but is of the opinion that Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRJ) was a socialist country until 1990.” They also say, “Socijalizam koji je postojao u Jugoslaviji, SSSR i Istočnoj Evropi imao je stotine nedostataka i mana i hiljade vrlina. Za običnog čoveka, za većinu, bio neuporedivo bolji od onoga što ovde i tamo postoji danas.” Translate: The socialism which existed in YUGOSLAVIA, the USSR, and Eastern Europe had hundreds of failures and flaws, and thousands of virtues. For the ordinary person, for the majority, it was much better than what exists [in these places] today.”
    Do they say that the breakup of Yugoslavia was a result of the capitalist economic policies of the Titoites, as Ely & friends bogusly charge? No. They say
    “Socijalistička federativna republika Jugoslavija nije se raspala, kako neki tvrde i pokušavaju da dokažu, ona je nasilno srušena i razbijena. SFRJ je razbio zapadni imperijalizam.”
    Translation: The SFRJ did not collapse, as some have tried to prove, it was violently torn apart and destroyed. SFRJ was smashed by western imperialism.
    They go on to say that the planned destruction of Yugoslavia was done “uz inicijativu i uz podršku čelnika i krupnog kapitala NATO država, Vatikana, ekstremnog religioznog fundamentalizma, i uz angažovanje domaćih nacional-šovinističkih, separatističkih, profašističkih i drugih retrogradnih snaga.”
    Translation: (It was done) with the initiative and support of the leaders and capital from NATO states, the Vatikan, extreme religious fundamentalists, and the involvement of domestic national-chauvinists, separatists, fascists, and other retrograde forces.
    Why would they want to do this, if Yugoslavia was such a compliant capitalist state, as you claim?
    NKPJ says “Najlakši način za rušenje socijalizma bio je podsticanje međunacionalnih sukoba koji su doveli do krvavog, bratoubilačkog, rata na ovim prostorima” – The easiest way to OVERTHROW SOCIALISM was to encourage inter-ethnic conflicts that led to civil war in the region. So they could divide socialist Yugoslavia up into a bunch of ethnically homogenous mini-states at once dependent on western capital for survival and unable to work together.
    In summary: Your assessment of the events in Yugoslavia is outrageous, and your condemnation of Yugoslav socialism is one-sided and sectarian. No “learning” will come out of reading Kasama’s “Yugoslavia deserved it” line.

  17. By the way, for people who say Zizek’s support for counterrevolutionary politics and imperialism is “in the past” and can’t be used to judge his ‘good work’ now, there’s this gem -

    http://www.lacan.com/zizek-nato.htm

    Zizek cheerleading for NATO aggression and piling on with the very same lies that justified the destruction of Yugoslavia.

    But we’re supposed to ignore this?

  18. This should bury the question about Zizek’s politics being in the “past” once and for all. He is a supporter of Zares, a liberal party in Slovenia and offshoot (as of 2004) of the party he founded – the LDS.

    http://www.zares.si/
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zares

  19. Back in 1995, Noam Chomsky, who as we all know is a notorious philistine and intellectual pygmy, had this to say about Lacan, and postmodernist types in general:

    ” … most of it seems to me gibberish. But if this is just another sign of my incapacity to recognize profundities, the course to follow is clear: just restate the results to me in plain words that I can understand, and show why they are different from, or better than, what others had been doing long before and and have continued to do since without three-syllable words, incoherent sentences, inflated rhetoric that (to me, at least) is largely meaningless, etc. That will cure my deficiencies — of course, if they are curable; maybe they aren’t, a possibility to which I’ll return.

    These are very easy requests to fulfill, if there is any basis to the claims put forth with such fervor and indignation. But instead of trying to provide an answer to this simple requests, the response is cries of anger: to raise these questions shows “elitism,” “anti-intellectualism,” and other crimes — though apparently it is not “elitist” to stay within the self- and mutual-admiration societies of intellectuals who talk only to one another and (to my knowledge) don’t enter into the kind of world in which I’d prefer to live. …

    It’s entirely possible that I’m simply missing something, or that I just lack the intellectual capacity to understand the profundities that have been unearthed in the past 20 years or so by Paris intellectuals and their followers. I’m perfectly open-minded about it, and have been for years, when similar charges have been made — but without any answer to my questions. Again, they are simple and should be easy to answer, if there is an answer: if I’m missing something, then show me what it is, in terms I can understand. Of course, if it’s all beyond my comprehension, which is possible, then I’m just a lost cause, and will be compelled to keep to things I do seem to be able to understand, and keep to association with the kinds of people who also seem to be interested in them and seem to understand them (which I’m perfectly happy to do, having no interest, now or ever, in the sectors of the intellectual culture that engage in these things, but apparently little else).

    Since no one has succeeded in showing me what I’m missing, we’re left with the second option: I’m just incapable of understanding. I’m certainly willing to grant that it may be true, though I’m afraid I’ll have to remain suspicious, for what seem good reasons. There are lots of things I don’t understand — say, the latest debates over whether neutrinos have mass or the way that Fermat’s last theorem was (apparently) proven recently. But from 50 years in this game, I have learned two things: (1) I can ask friends who work in these areas to explain it to me at a level that I can understand, and they can do so, without particular difficulty; (2) if I’m interested, I can proceed to learn more so that I will come to understand it. Now Derrida, Lacan, Lyotard, Kristeva, etc. — even Foucault, whom I knew and liked, and who was somewhat different from the rest — write things that I also don’t understand, but (1) and (2) don’t hold: no one who says they do understand can explain it to me and I haven’t a clue as to how to proceed to overcome my failures. That leaves one of two possibilities: (a) some new advance in intellectual life has been made, perhaps some sudden genetic mutation, which has created a form of “theory” that is beyond quantum theory, topology, etc., in depth and profundity; or (b) … I won’t spell it out.”

    Full: http://www.cscs.umich.edu/~crshalizi/chomsky-on-postmodernism.html

  20. Rajarshi Chaudhuri

    And the little I’ve seen by Zizek – left me wondering about his popularity on the left!!!

    Zizek’s thought perhaps is to make things more enigmatic and more unintelligible :-)

  21. post-Kasamaism

    It only makes sense that Mike Ely has a soft-spot for the gibberish of postmodernism, seeing as how it is also basically a pseudo-Left attack on Marxism.

  22. He’s a sleazeball and a fraudster:

    http://harpers.org/archive/2009/01/hbc-90004183

    Here’s some beyond belief actionable libel, sheer racist lies, about the Strojan family who were persecuted in Slovenia:

    http://www.lacan.com/essays/?page_id=454

    (Here’s the real story –
    http://www.normanfinkelstein.com/the-real-anti-semitism-in-europe/

    He’s a racist, sexist, neoliberal con man.

    The BBC recently called him “the world’s most influential Marxist” and pictured him as even the reincarnation of Marx:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/newsnight/8800931.stm

    Anyone who cares about the public image of Marxism and the left has to stop tolerating this grotesque imposture.

  23. This chauvinistic, pro-imperialist filth is all you need to know about Zizek.

    http://www.lacan.com/kosovo.htm

    ““So, on the one hand, we have the obscenities of the Serb state propaganda: they regularily refer to Clinton not as “the American president,” but as “the American Fuehrer”; two of the transparents on their state-organized anti-Nato demonstrations were “Clinton, come here and be our Monica!” (i.e. suck our…), and “Monica, did you suck out also his brain?”. The atmosphere in Belgrade is, at least for the time being, carnavalesque in a faked way — when they are not in shelters, people dance to rock or ethnic music on the streets, under the motto “With poetry and music against bombs!”, playing the role of the defying heroes (since they know that NATO does not really bomb civilian targets and that, consequently, they are safe!). This is where the NATO planners got it wrong, caught in their schemes of strategic reasoning, unable to forecast that the Serb reaction to bombardment will be a recourse to a collective Bakhtinian carnivalization of the social life… This pseudo-authentic spectacle, although it may fascinate some confused Leftists, is effectively the other, public, face of ethnic cleansing: in Belgrade people are defiantly dancing on the streets while, three hundred kilometers to the South, a genocide of African proportions is taking place…

    “So, precisely as a Leftist, my answer to the dilemma “Bomb or not?” is: not yet ENOUGH bombs, and they are TOO LATE. In the last decade, the West followed a Hamlet-like procrastination towards Balkan, and the present bombardment has effectively all the signs of Hamlet’s final murderous outburst in which a lot of people unnecessarily die (not only the King, his true target, but also his mother, Laertius, Hamlet himelf…), because Hamlet acted too late, when the proper moment was already missed. So the West, in the present intervention which displays all the signs of a violent outburst of impotent aggressivity without a clear political goal, is now paying the price for the years of entertaining illusions that one can make a deal with Milosevic: with the recent hesitations about the ground intervention in Kosovo, the Serbian regime is, under the pretext of war, launching the final assault on Kosovo and purge it of most of the Albanians, cynically accepting bombardments as the price to be paid. When the Western forces repeat all the time that they are not fighting the Serbian people, but only their corrupted regime, they rely on the typically liberal wrong premise that the Serbian people are just victims of their evil leadership personified in Milosevic, manipulated by him. The painful fact is that Serb aggressive nationalism enjoys the support of the large majority of the population — no, Serbs are not passive victims of nationalist manipulation, they are not Americans in disguise, just waiting to be delivered from the bad nationalist spell.”

  24. i read Zizek as I read Kissinger, Camille Paglia, etc. They are all crackpots. They all have problematic politics. And they all have interesting things to say. I learn from all of them. Zizek is unique in that he may in fact be the most famous Communist (?) philosopher in the world right now. As a revolutionary he doesn’t necessarily help the project along. At least directly and at times he sure as heck seems to be hurting it.

    Post Modernism, post structuralism too are a mishmash of ideas, theories and methods. But where would our understandings of sex, gender, identity and art be without them. I mean really. where? When I was at Brooklyn college in the 1990s I spent most of my time organizing and skipping classes. But when I went to class I was drawn to studying African American fiction, French new wave film and Gay porn, AIDS, historical materialism, the art of the Dadaists and the poetry of Lower East Side drug addicts. Most of these heady discussions took place in the English Dept of all places which was a hot bed of PoMo theorists at the school. Young queers may have taken action with the anarchists and commies but we also drew from Lacan, Foucault and Derrida. You had to even if it meant wadding into some intellectual naval gazing along the way.

    • I actually never intended this post to be an argument for ignoring Zizek. I think that would be a mistake. As I said in the post, I read some of his earlier books, and just recently read First As Tragedy, Then As Farce. I’m reading Living In The End Times now. I also read Lukacs, Althusser, Badiou, and so on.

      I don’t favor ignoring these “Marxist” philosphers. Some are better than others. Badiou is very interesting, though wrong on many points. At the root of his thinking (and Zizek’s) is a view that the Leninist project of the 20th century was a failure, with which I don’t agree. Althusser is quite good in a number of ways, though I’m not interested at all in his later work on “aleatory materialism”. Zizek, who is growing tremendously influencial among certain sections of the Left, however, needs to be approached in much the same way as Engels approached Eugen Duhring back in the late 1870s. The problem then with Duhring, who was spreading confusion throughout the socialist movement with his “sublime nonsense” was quite similar to the problem today with Zizek. Zizek, like Duhring, is “the kind of apple that, once bitten into, had to be completely devoured; and it was not only very sour, but also very large.” I don’t find myself at this time interested very much in taking up such a task. The task is yet to become so urgent, as the forces drawn to Zizek are not really practically significant, as those drawn to Duhring were then becoming when Engels felt compelled to neglect his other work to bite into that particularly “sour apple.”

      I must say it has been very interesting to read everyone’s comments, which I am happy this article was sharp enough to draw out.

  25. Reading these comments has shown that mostly everybody on here has not really tried to understand Zizek or Lacan. For starters, Zizek is in the ANTI-postmodern group of continentinal Philosophy, he is not a postmodernist. Please actually read his work and try to understand it before you making silly comments.

    There is not much to say, I have not encountered a single post on here that has understanding of Lacan or Zizek’s theories and thus criticized them. All I see is whining about not being able to understand him. So until a real argument against his work comes up, then I will bother.

    Glad to see you are reading “In Defense of Lost Causes” Sykes though it may not have had to do with my recommendation. Let me know what you think about it and we will discuss it!

    -Tyler

    • I am not reading In Defense of Lost Causes. When that book came out I gave it a look and wasn’t interested. I’m reading Living In The End Times, as I said.

      Anyway, there is an important point here being made about the importance of a person’s (particularly a “Marxist” and “Communist” philosopher’s) political positions and practice in relation to an evaluation of their philosophical positions, and this point is being systematically ignored. It is like these friends of Zizek are sticking their fingers in their ears and yelling “la la la I can’t hear you!”

      To say those things don’t matter and that a person’s philosophy can be judged completely apart from a person’s practice is idealism, plain and simple. Zizek is an anti-communist dressed as a Red Guard. When you read his books and articles, you’d be wise to understand and remember that, in the same way that when you read Martin Heidegger you’d be wise to remember that he was a Nazi philosopher, that his philosophy is bound up with Nazism.

      The point of all this isn’t to critique Zizek’s philosophical ideas. I don’t think they are worth my time writing such a critique or my readers time reading it. At least not right now. I advocate Marxism-Leninism, and while there are many different philosophical systems that oppose Marxism-Leninism, including Zizek’s, I’m not out to do philosophy here. I hold the position that Marxism (dialectical materialism) stands at the end of philosophy, and that any attempt to get beyond Marxism is merely a return to a pre-Marxian philosophical position, though perhaps in new clothes.

      The point here, on the contrary, is precisely to expose Zizek’s reactionary practice and political positions, and to bring those positions into the discussion. This isn’t “anti-intellectualism” as has been suggested. Is Zizek somehow, by virtue of being a philosopher, exempt from any real political critque? Must he be criticized philosophically, first and foremost? I don’t think so. I’m not interested in his ontology even a little bit, and I have not pretended to be. He should not be permitted to hide behind abstractions.

      Perhaps the friends of Zizek will say, on this point, that all of this is mere evidence of “dogmatism”, my “orthodoxy”, or my “Stalinism”. Fine then, let’s say, as Alain Badiou put it in Theory of the Subject, that “with things as they stand today, a Stalinist is whoever seeks, on some major point of doctrine or ethics, not to give in.” Very well.

      I would also like to draw attention to the discussion of this article here: http://kasamaproject.org/2010/07/30/the-worst-essay-weve-seen-in-ages-on-zizek/

      • Sorry must of read it wrong. I just finished that one, it is good as well.

      • The ML: “I hold the position that Marxism (dialectical materialism) stands at the end of philosophy, and that any attempt to get beyond Marxism is merely a return to a pre-Marxian philosophical position, though perhaps in new clothes.”

        I’m wondering what that means–”the end of philosophy.” Do you mean to say that we’ve reached the limits of philosophical frameworks that can be applied to society to understand it? That phrase–”the end of”–always sends up a (har har) red flag for me, thinking that dialectics teaches us that we’re never at THE END of ANYTHING. I don’t want to cringe at this like I would, say, “the end of history,” but it has the same ring to it, though this is maybe only rhetorical similarity.

      • I am following Jean-Paul Sartre on this point, who says (himself following Lenin):

        “I have often remarked on the fact that an ‘anti-Marxist’ argument is only the apparent rejuvenation of a pre-Marxist idea. A so-called ‘going beyond’ Marxism will be at worst only a return to pre-Marxism; at best, only the rediscovery of a thought already contained in the philosophy which one believes he has gone beyond.”

        In other words, Marxism is developed as it is applied again and again to developing reality. We don’t need to come up with new philosophical systems to deal with changes that occur. Rather we need to creatively and dialectically apply dialectical materialism.

        Look at Alain Badiou’s very interesting book, Theory of the Subject for instance. From the very beginning he calls himself an “orthodox Marxist” (p. 4) and yet he is dealing with mathematics, Lacanian theory, and so on. Very well. Orthodox Marxism (dialectical materialism) should prove perfectly capable of dealing with these things, creatively applied.

    • Thanks for the link. From the article: “The argumentum ad hominem is not always fallacious, for in some instances questions of personal conduct, character, motives, etc., are legitimate and relevant to the issue.” This point was emphasized again and again by my philosophy professors.

      • Hi, it seems the conversation over there continues but my comments are banned, so I hope you won’t mind my posting a couple (the more useful for sincere and serious people) here:

        My evidence regarding Zizek’s incitement to neoNazi violence against the Strojan family is caught in “moderation” so I just will report as the last thing:

        Zizek writes openly racist things about Roma in Slovenia, as Svetlana Slapsak complains here:
        http://www.desk.nl/~pribeziste/svetlana.html

        There’s some other material here:
        http://mediawatch.mirovni-institut.si/eng/

        referring to his propagandising against civil rights of ethnic minorities and gays in Mladina, those he calls “non-Slovenes in Slovenia”.

        He was openly opposed to Slovene State compensation to the erased (the ethnically cleansed). He oozes contempt in complaining that he even has to use the Roma’s word for themselves (“what is politically correct for gypsy?” he always asks when mentioning Roma, as if he can’t remember, and it’s such a burden to have to speak respectfully). But in the piece I quoted, he makes a positively actionable libel against a specific Roma family whose persecution was a news story covered on tv, the Strojans, who were terrorised from their home by a racist mob, whom he claims were “frightened” by the Strojans “constant shooting” – lie – “constant stealing of animals from their farms” – lie – and the killing – lie – of a man in their “camp” (his misleading word for their home) which he claims they occupied illegally, another lie.

        Again this is his account:

        “there was, in Slovenia, around a year ago, a big problem with a Roma (Gipsy) family which camped [lie] close to a small town. When a man was killed [lie] in the camp, [lie] the people in the town started to protest against the Roma, demanding that they be moved from the camp [lie] (which they occupied illegally [lie]) to another location, organizing vigilante groups, etc. As expected, all liberals condemned them as racists, [lie] locating racism into this isolated [lie] small village [lie], while none of the liberals, living comfortably in the big cities, [lie] had any everyday contact with the Roma [lie] (except for meeting their representatives in front of the TV cameras when they supported them). When the TV interviewed the “racists” from the town, they were clearly seen [lie] to be a group of people frightened [lie] by the constant fighting [lie] and shooting [lie] in the Roma camp, [lie] by the constant theft [lie] of animals from their farms, [lie] and by other forms of small harassments [lie] from the Roma. It is all too easy to say (as the liberals did) [lie] that the Roma way of life is (also) a consequence of the centuries of their exclusion and mistreatment, [wtf?] that the people in the nearby town should also open themselves more to the Roma, [wtf?] etc. – nobody clearly answered the local “racists” [lie] what they should concretely do to solve the very real problems [lie] the Roma camp [lie] evidently [lie] was for them.[lie]”

        This is a television report:

        This is an accurate account of events:

        http://www.thewip.net/contributors/2007/10/a_gypsy_saga_the_strojan_famil.html

        Zizek’s account is a pack of racist lies, a fairy tale of “gypsy camp” with every cliché except baby-stealing. It is all lies. No one was killed at the Strojan’s home, they were not “constantly shooting” and “constantly stealing animals” from neighbouring farms and “harrassing” their neighbors. Zizek simply tells racist lies in English about them at the time when the Slovene eu presidency was bringing more light to this and the situation of the erased carried out by the Lib Dems a party which in 1995 interview Zizek stressed he “fully supported” and proudly noted “made some solidly corrupt moves” and got it’s hands dirty, etc etc.. which he thinks is so admirable. he expects to be admired for the daring to “seize power” just to weild it to persecute and plunder Roma and Muslims and line the pockets of US and German capitalists.

        Please watch the video report and read the real account of the Strojan case and compare it to Zizek’s false, inflammatory and racist account which is so sympathetic to and dishonest in support of the neoNazi terrorist mob. Note that all his revisionist history, recent and less recent, cannot be from the mere laziness of not “googling” since much was written before google’s existence and it all – whether about Haiti in 1804, Enron in the 21st century, Slovenia during WWII, in 1991, or in 2005, Kosovo in the 1990s – has the rigidly consistent reactionary character tending toward the invention of imperialism-justifying myths (fictional Serbian genocidaires, fictional Roma criminality), sentimental celebration of white supremacy and the degradation and abjection of its designated others.

        ____

        “Living in the End Times, he quite clearly argues for the position of a singular democratic secular state in Israel-Palestine, the Finkelstein position…”

        Did he really claim that Finkelstein supports one state? Typical disinfo of the sort he is perpetually peddling. It is almost funny.

        But it isn’t. This is not trivial and there’s no excuse for misrepresenting Norman Finkielstein who has sacrificed so much to delivering sincere, accurate and useful militant intellectual work, a very different sort of life and career than SZ’s.

        http://www.normanfinkelstein.com/one-state-or-two-state-a-sterile-debate-on-false-alternatives/

        http://www.normanfinkelstein.com/reasoned-rejection-of-one-state-position/

        Thanks.

      • If we were putting Zizek’s character on trial, your comments would be admissible, as these occurrences, if substantiated, would be evidence.

        When we are discussing his philosophy, your ad hominem attacks are fallacious. For example, when discussing the impact of Heidegger’s work upon the Western philosophical cannon, one cannot simply dismiss his contributions on account that he was a Nazi. His philosophy, like Zizek’s, succeeds or fails according to the strength of his arguments, not the uniform he wore to party meetings.

  26. And if you will indulge me, one more, a reply to Onehundredflowers -

    And just lastly – one of the results of his method is to attach people emotionally so loyally that they stop noticing their own contradictions.

    For example – defending Zizek’s lengthy, vivid musing about “half ape blacks” requires people to posit “a great many” white racists concealing their racism who are supposedly being spoofed here in order to educate the audience about them and to declare Zizek’s daring and radical disagreement with their views (Zizek takes the “controversial” position that “blacks” are NOT “half-apes”!). Before Zizek explained that “blacks” are NOT “half-apes”, what did this all white audience at this all white conference think about this? Are we to suppose Zizek’s daring send-up of those who believe “blacks” to be “half-apes” was needed to dispell their own assumptions? Or are they all just bonding in their liberal multiculturalist mutual congratulation celebrating how they are all so much more enlightened than the object of Zizek’s caricature who imagines “half-ape blacks whose grandparents jumped in trees like apes in Africa”?

    So at the same time as Zizek’s fans have to posit, in order to justify his remarks, a great many secretly luridly racist white folks whose imaginations are overrun with images that appear to have been burned in Zizek’s brain by the Nazi propaganda clips in The Sorrow and the Pity, defending Zizek from the obvious observation that he is titillating and gratifying the thinly veiled racism in his white fans – these very “great many” white liberals with lurid thoughts – requires his defenders to make an immedate about face and claim that his white liberal audience is not taking pleasure in his racist expressions and is distinct from these “white liberal multiculturalists”.

    Since his fans must claim to know a great many of these white racists but may decline to name any, the racists who justify the remarks (the objects of the caricature) can remain an anonymous cloud whose location can be continually shifted to the propagandistic purposes of Zizek and his fans. At times his fans when necessary will proclaim “but he is only saying that we are all racists and anti-Semites, participants in Ideology or The Racist Imaginary…” and at others they will deny their belonging and Zizek’s to the white racist horde and deploy the horde as their foil. These contradictory positions are adopted simultaneously to render the interlude of “half-ape blacks” at the fort of Crete à Pierrot acceptable and to make the story in the even more absurd written form (complete with white soldiers who at first “think they hear some tribal war chant” before – swelling violins! – realising it is the Marseillaise!) seem plausible. When the unfactuality of his account is objected to, his fans will dismiss it as the result of being too lazy to google. The question of why his imagination should have produced this specific fiction, and what it’s effects on the reader are – what their pleasure in it is – is evaded by praising Zizek as simply an incompetent intellectual.

    The white racists or reactionaries or imperialists imagined to be “caricatured” by Zizek are always elsewhere and his odious ideas always attributed to them wherever they are, even though it is confessed it is his own refusal of “hypocrisy” – it would be hypocrisy for him to behave “politically correctly” (courteously, civiliiy, respectfully) to people he thinks belong to a “different race” than his because it would require him concealing or stifling expressions of his real spontaneously racist thoughts and feelings – that results in the daring, principled and magically conquering acts of sexually harrassing black colleagues and students or acquaintances with racist remarks.

    It is interesting that Zizek adapts for a racist purpose the really tired misogynist myth that people secretly like the abuse and admire those who sexually harass them – you really love it! He invents “a big, black guy” who really does love it – a kind of Punjab to his Daddy Warbucks, a magic Negro, an adoring and approving best black friend forever – as men have in anecdotes invented the woman who really does love those titty remarks and arse pinches time out of mind. This type of story is outmoded, he is reviving it, but it still ought be recogniseable even to undergrads since it was once so ubiquitous and can be found in heaps of important literature and classic film etc.

    But Zizek’s fans become so attached emotionally to him, so addicted to these “provocative” old borscht belt gags, their judgement is deactivated. In the blurb of the RSAnimate lecture posted recently, the RSA promises that Zizek will reveal something “very surprising” about the new genres of ethical and environmental marketing of consumer goods. Listen to the lecture. He describes Starbucks marketing. It has the tone of a set up for a revelation or observation or hypothesis of some sort. But that never comes. He just describes the marketing, says “of course charity is good! i am not saying charity is bad. it is just not a communist revolution.” And that’s it.

    Duh. Where is the surprising insight about the ethical/environmental consumer goods marketing? There is an illusion that something was said about it but nothing actually was. There are a lot of words, the superficial trappings of a lecture, but no content. This is the quality Jameson described as typical of “post-modernism”. And Zizek is the ultimate post-modern, because he of course also declares himself opposed to post-modernism. Like “I call my African American students speakchuckers but not in a racist way” and “modernity, rationality and communism are european but I don’t mean this in a eurocentric way” and “I like to email my sexual fantasies about them to women students but not in a sexist way”, and “American occupation is not always the bad guy but I don’t say this in an imperialist way”.

  27. Harriet, thank you for this. I do not have the patience to sift through Zizek’s mad ramblings, and it’s quite clear from your work that even if you take Zizek on his own terms he is a reactionary – far worse than I thought! The defenders will continue to shout about “misinterpretations”, but it’s abundantly clear from his ‘story’ about Strojan family that he is a race baiter and the worst kind of Roma hating chauvinist.

  28. Listen to the lecture. He describes Starbucks marketing. It has the tone of a set up for a revelation or observation or hypothesis of some sort. But that never comes. He just describes the marketing, says “of course charity is good! i am not saying charity is bad. it is just not a communist revolution.” And that’s it.”

    Hurray for missing the point. I will sum it up for you. Starbucks offers coffee and consumerism yet at the same time offers redemption from consumerism by promising that your money will go to some charity. Zizek says it is the logic of the chocolate laxative. We buy laxatives for constipation yet the chocolate is what CAUSES it in the first place. So the point is marketing is based on taking the cause and turning it into it’s opposite. This is modern capitalist enterprise.

    “Living in the End Times, he quite clearly argues for the position of a singular democratic secular state in Israel-Palestine, the Finkelstein position…”

    Norman Finkelstein is not even mentioned in that book, so you should look up his own work before you post a secondary source. Thanks.

    This thread is complete character assasination. I have not seen any actual engagements with Zizek’s work on here. What do you all think of his theory of Ideology? His points on tolerance in a multicultural society? His ideas of how the dictactorship of the proleteriat should be gone about today? If you read the bulk of his work (which I am assuming you have not judging by the shallowness of your response) you will notice it is one of the few example of Marxism left in academic Philosophy. Of course no one on here has demonstrated the contrary by analyzing the bulk of his work, instead you would rather look up random articles on the internet about him and declare him a reactionary. Quite pathetic really.

  29. Look up random articles? Is it reactionary to support and lead counterrevolution or isn’t it? Is it reactionary to support imperialist wars or isn’t it? Is it reactionary to support and maintain ties with parties which implement savage capitalism and destroy the social economy or isn’t it? This isn’t cherry picking quotes, this is an assessment of his “contributions” to building socialism. He has contributed to nothing but destruction. He’s a contrarian out for personal gain. He’s made a lot of money by claiming he’s a “Marxist”, and before that by claiming he’s a liberal nationalist. He likes to keep himself in the headlines. That’s all.

    If his so-called “work” allows him to justify imperialism and wars of aggression, as well as national chauvinism and the repetition of lies, why should anyone care about it or take it seriously? What is ‘Marxist’ about it? No one has been able to explain why we should just ignore the fact that he’s a counterrevolutionary because of what he has written. What he writes has to be some spectacular stuff for me to absolve him of all of his counterrevolutionary politics, and even then I probably wouldn’t.

    Since I’m simply too dumb to understand his “work”, if some smarmy defender of Zizek could please break down his theory of ideology for me or some other supposed “Marxist” advancement, in terms I could understand, and then explain how on earth it improves our current understanding and applies to the practical building of socialism, I’m all ears. Nobody has done that. Instead we get taunts about we ‘just don’t understand’.

  30. “We buy laxatives for constipation yet the chocolate is what CAUSES it in the first place.”

    Problem is – this is not true and if it were, it would not be interesting.

    “So the point is marketing is based on taking the cause and turning it into it’s opposite.”

    No “fair trade” marketing is a gimmick that is hyspocritical – seeking increased profit by advertising decreased profit – but does not “turn the cause into it’s opposite”.

    “This is modern capitalist enterprise.”

    Oh gee. Not really. But if it were, so? Where is the “surprising insight”? You just think that’s really neat to notice that like soft drinks are supposed to quench thirst but make you thirstier? And a cigarette makes you want another? And lip balm creates the need for itself? Or in another mood that safe sex and caffeine free coffee take the sexy thrill out of dangerous sex and the stimulation out of caffeinated coffee? This is all news to whom precisely? And now that the last to know have been informed, what happens?

    Btw, the close door buttons in elevators work when the setting is manual. But an elevator is too advanced a technology for Dr. Zizek to grasp.

    Although since “everything’s up to date in Ljubljana, they’ve gone about as far as they can go” it is perhaps more likely he delights in watching his adoring gulls buy any nonsense at all he wants to sell and declare it profound and enlightening.

  31. Look at how profound Zizek is:

    “And here I came to think of the toilets in America, France and Germany. They make up a semiotic triangle that correlates exactly to Levi Strauss’ triangle, so we also have an excrement triangle. Now the German toilets are built in a way that the excrement falls on a flat surface in the back and is flushed through a hole in the front. This way you are directly confronted with excrement — and you can see whether you have worms, etc. This is a German ritual. The French toilets have the opposite system: the hole is bigger at the back so excrement can fall directly into the hole and vanishes immediately. The American variant is a kind of correlative of Levi Strauss’ cooked food, combining the elements: the excrement remains, but it floats in the water. I had a look at some books on the topic and came to the conclusion that every nation believes their system makes most sense. But clearly, a complex system is at work here. And if I am to carry on… here is the right answer for Lyotard and all those who say the end of ideology, period. Yes, but as soon as you flush the toilet, you’re right in the middle of ideology.”

    Such profound analysis that revolutionaries can learn from.

  32. - Thammy: What do you all think of his theory of Ideology?

    It’s bogus, idealist, covertly Jungian and ignores class and production. And you? What do you make of it?

    – Thammy: His points on tolerance in a multicultural society?

    Everyone on the left agrees that tolerance is a posture of power wishing to retain power and appear to weild it generously. Anti-racists demand instead respect. Zizek instead claims to object to tolerance as condescending but recommends, and enacts, instead a swaggering white male supremacy favouring open abuse. He justifies this sometimes as healthier for the abuser (not hypocrticial, more macho) and sometimes as better for a middle class audience for the spectacle who is provided thereby with a more modernist and less comforting show. It’s all moralising.

    his vision of “a multiculturalist society” is rightwing white supremacist fantasy and nightmare.

    SZ: “If you don’t have a basic patriotic identification—not nationalism, but in the sense of “we are all members of the same nation and so on”—then democracy doesn’t function. You cannot have a living democracy in this pure multiculturalist liberal dream.”

    He contends there exists something called “white culture” of which those he addresses and speaks for as “we white leftist men and women” are the inheritors. He claims that “liberal multiculturalism” is hegemonic – this sparked the debate with sara ahmed – and churns out the usual right wing kvecthing about the “political correctness” gestapo persecuting him and other white leftists who want to be proud of “their” “white culture”. he goes so far as to deploy unmodigfied Hegelian white supremacy in insisting that the “intellectual” aspects of the Haitian revolution were “European” “white” and “Western” and that “white culture” is something Stokely Carmichael needed to adopt – as not inherited, not birthright – in order to participate in the “egalitarian emancipatory tradition”. Once “white leftists” understand the “white culture’s” gift of civilisation to the savages, as in Haiti, “we white Leftist men and women are free to leave behind the politically correct process of endless self-torturing guilt…“The West [sic] is not detested for its real faults, but for its attempts to amend them, because it was one of the first to try to tear itself out of its own bestiality, inviting the rest of the world to follow it.” [Bruckner] The Western legacy is effectively not just that of (post)colonial imperialist domination, but also that of self-critical examination of the violence and exploitation the West itself brought to the Third World. The French colonized Haiti, but the French Revolution also provided the ideological foundation for the rebellion which liberated the slaves and established an independent Haiti…”

    So Zizek offers the grossest white supremacist fables, spiced with the usual resentful white male complaints and risible boasting, passed off as history.

    And what’s your view?

    – Thammy:His ideas of how the dictactorship of the proleteriat should be gone about today?

    Laughable. But let’s let him speak for himself, shall we? :

    SZ: “if you don’t have a basic patriotic identification—not nationalism, but in the sense of “we are all members of the same nation and so on”—then democracy doesn’t function. You cannot have a living democracy in this pure multiculturalist liberal dream… it cannot last….The struggle is beginning today for what will replace it. There, we will have to make tough decisions….If we don’t act, I can see quite well the possibility—some Western version of the Chinese option, what they poetically call Asian values capitalism, which is really capitalism with authoritarian structure…..You know, Marx thesis eleven: philosophers have only interpreted the world; the time is, we have now to change it. Maybe, as good Marxists, we should turn it around. Maybe we are trying to change it too much….Remember that when somebody is telling you…“ Let’s do something,” this is the threat. This is the threat….What we need is to withdraw—don’t be afraid to withdraw….Don’t be—don’t feel guilty for withdrawing from immediate engagement.”

    http://www.democracynow.org/2008/5/12/world_renowned_philosopher_slavoj_zizek_on

  33. the toilet “national character” tale is something from the 80s that circulated among American university students after junior year in Europe, more popular (affordable) then than now.

    It appears often in close proximity to ‘sex is like pizza, when it’s good it’s great, when it’s no good it’s still pretty good.’

    You can find it in several junky novels of the 80s, but the American toilet is usually said to contain water in order for the American to enjoy the satisfaction of the “sound effects” of bombardment.

  34. The cure for the “paternalist” “condescension” of “tolerance” Zizek says is to “trade racist insults” but he means for white people to verbally assault those over whom the existing hierarchy of white supremacy gives them an advantage.

    “for me political correctness is still inverted racism…let’s cut the crap, let’s say we want to become friends, there has to be a politically incorrect exchange of obscenity. You know, some dirty joke or whatever, whose meaning is “cut the crap we are now real friends”. And I can tell you this from my wonderful experience here, you want a shocking story you will hear it. How did I become here a friend, a true friend, am not advising anybody to do it because it was a risky gesture, but it worked wonderfully with a -with a -with a black, African-American guy. No? How did I become? We were very friendly, already, but not really, but then I risk and told him, it’s a horrible thing I warn you, is it true that you blacks you know have a big penis, no? but that you can even move it so that if you have on your leg above your knee a fly you can Boff! smash it with your penis. The guy embraced me and told me dying of laughter “now you can call me a nigger.” Like when blacks tell you “you can call me a nigger” means they really accept you no?””

    http://www.radioopensource.org/slavoj-zizek-what-is-the-question/

    So he boasts of his verbal abuse of “a big black guy”

    http://www.electronicbookreview.com/thread/endconstruction/desublimation

    and elsewhere, a Kosovo Abanian. But like all such swaggering hypocrties, who claim to use racist language “in a non racist way” but always celebrate their own use of it “down” the racial hierarchy, if he is not the doler out of racist sexual harrasment but the recipient of even a minor slight, he is quick to cry “reverse racism!” and whine about being persecuted as white or as aryan.

    “Reverse racism plays a crucial role in the success of Emir Kusturica’s films in the West.
    Because the Balkans are part of Europe, they can be spoken of in racist clichés which nobody would dare to apply to Africa or Asia…. Slovenia is most exposed to this displaced racism, since it is closest to Western Europe: when Kusturica, talking about his film Underground, dismissed the Slovenes as a nation of Austrian grooms, nobody reacted: an ‘authentic’ artist from the less developed part of former Yugoslavia was attacking the most developed part of it. When discussing the Balkans, the tolerant multiculturalist is allowed to act out his repressed racism.”

    http://www.lacan.com/zizek-youmay.htm

    The hierarchised dichotomy Europe-Balkans, West-Orient he seems at first to deplore is actually assumed and asserted, “questioned” only to be strengthened and reaffirmed. He does this consistently and repeatedly

    http://www.newstatesman.com/religion/2010/04/god-order-wisdom-paul-love

    His shtick is to appear to introduce a reactionary formula through sock puppets – distancing himself, appearing to have this formula imposed on him from a racist “outside” his own discourse which he simply is obliged to acknowlegde – only to deploy it. From this comes his extraordinary reading of Simone de Beauvoir:

    de Beauvoir writes: “many racists, ignoring the rigors of science, insist on declaring that even if the physiological reasons have not been established, the fact is that blacks are inferior. You only have to travel through America to be convinced of it.”

    Clearly SDB is describing racist views, but Zizek, treating her as if she were using his own usual techniques, reads the passage as if de Beauvoir is citing “many racists” as her Authorities, as Zizek does (a convenient sock puppet, used to disguise the origin of the statements at first, when they are introduced, which will later be treated as established facts.)

    Zizek writes “her [SDB] point about racism has been too easily misunderstood….”

    The racism of “many racists” beceoms in Zizek’s reading SDB’s own “point” because he reads her text as being like his own.

    He then quotes a critic of de Beauvoir and continues “She [Sandford] is aware that de Beauvoir’s claim about the factual inferiority of blacks -”

    (he has made de Beauvoir’s description of racist claims about the inferiority of blacks into de Beauvoir’s own claims supported by “racists” as Authorities.)

    Zizek continues: SDB’s “claim about the factual inferiority of blacks aims at something more than the simple social fact that in the American South of (not only) that time, blacks were treated as inferior by the white majority and in a way, they effectively were inferior.”

    In other words he read de Beauvoir as affirming the racist view that it is not just that blacks are disadvantaged by racism, thus de facto “inferior” socially, subjected to racist oppression, but inferior in the way racists claim – “something more” than mere disadvantage.

    ” But her {Sandford’s] critical solution, propelled by the care to avoid racist claims on the factual inferiority of blacks, is to relativise their inferiority into a matter of interpretation and judgement by white racists, and distance it from the question of their very being.”

    Zizek here claims that fear of seeming racist discourages the critic from acknowledging the truth of black inferiority and then, typically, he goes on to boast that he is the real anti-racist for acknowledging real white superiority and those who don’t acknowledge the truth of the “many racists” claims he takes SDB to agree with are the real racists:

    “But what this softening distinction misses is the truly trenchant dimension of racism, the “being” of blacks (as of whites or anyone else) is a socio-symbolic being. When they are treated by whites as inferior, this does indeed make them inferior on the level of their socio-symbolic identity. In other words, the white racist ideology exerts a performatice efficiency. It is not merely an interpretation of what blacks are, but an interpretation that determines the very being and social existence of the interpreted subjects. We can now locate precisely what makes Sandford and other critics of Beauvoir resist her formulation that blacks actually were inferior: this resistance it iself ideological.”‘

    The game exploiting the vague and protean nature of the term “inferior” is an excellent example of his tactics.
    He says “blacks are inferior in their being” (which is “socio-symbolic”) due to being treated as “inferior” by white racists. He insists SDB agreed with this view.

    He avoids specifying what kind of “inferiority” white racism attributes to black people (not of weight, height, sexual potency or footspeed, but intellectal and moral) in order to create his and his audience’s alibis for th racist claims they are going to share, with the naughty thrill of his “radicalism” and defiance of “political correctness” and simultaenously disavow like the good liberals they are pretending to despise. This word’s need of modification, it’s ambiguity and multiple possible meanings, allow him the necessary equivocation. (In what way are “blacks” made “inferior”? Inferior in age? In education? In strength?)

    Not specifying what kind of inferiority white racism attributes to black people allows his fans to misread him, or pretend to misread him, “favourably” – grant him a benevolent anti-racist, progressive intent – for an appearance of rationality and to insist that when he writes “blacks are made inferior in their being” he means only the obvious platitude “blacks are oppressed”. They must of course ignore that he states explicitly that SDB and her racist authorities are getting at “something more” than merely this kind of de facto inferiority of social standing and resources that is race discrimination, but Zizek fans are good at refusing to acknowledge the obvious.

    So his fans can defend him from critics by insisting on reading him as asserting merely: Blacks were/are oppressed by white racism. An innocuous statement.

    But how then will he portray himself as daring and radical and this text as containing some worhtwhile “insights” or “original” of interesting analysis if it just says “blacks were oppressed by white racism in the American South”?

    Clearly the white racism of the white racists de Beauvoir quoted that claims “blacks are inferior” and “treats blacks as inferior” is not claiming that “blacks are oppressed” and “treating blacks as if they were oppressed”.

    That is not what “inferior” means in the quoted sentence “many racists…will say the fact is blacks are inferior”. One would not interpret this as the same as: “many racists will say the fact is blacks are oppressed”.

    So this is a fine demonstration of Zizek’s typical shell game with the “liberal assumption” he purports to boldly explode and piously affirm at once. His fans can say he is just acknowledging that blacks are opressed by white racists, and piously lamenting the crushing effects of white racism on blacks.

    He then boasts that he is “going further” than sissy liberals dare to go by saying that a view that blacks are not in fact intellectually inferior to whites but only perceived as such through racist eyes (labelled “the liberal view”) is _underestimating_ the “trenchant dimension” of racism. That is, to claim that racists views of black inferiority are factually false is too soft racism. He is the true anti-racist because only he dares to say blacks are truly inferior as racists claim and that is the real tragedy of racism! only he dares to deplore the tragedy to it’s true extent – that racism made blacks intellectually and morally inferior, that racism made Muslims into misogynist terrorists, etc.. This white supremacy is then disavowed elsewhere as the secret despicable sentiment of the anti-imperialist left who, Zizek claims, quoting Bruckner, always “blame the West” for the evils and atrocities of the imperialised and colonised. The performance consistently reaffirms the clichés in the guise of “dissent” from “typical liberal” opinions about them. Yhe meaning and solidity of the fiction “the West” – actually threatened by left cultural political praxis – is stabilised and affirmed under cover of “debating” whether this fictional entity is loveable or not so loveable, heroic or villainous, and similar distractions. In the passages about de Beauvoir, race and the existing white supremacist hierarchy is all affirmed in the guise of “debating” how sad it is and whose fault it is that whites are superior.

    So opposition to racist views is the real racism, critical thinking itself about race and racism is, in Zizek’s assertion, the real racism whic minimises the damage racism really does. And now to announce that blacks are really (intellectually and morally) inferior, _made so by white racism_, is to be the real antiracist, the courageous destroyer of liberal pieties, the one who truly sees what kind of damage racism inflicts. He alone is brave enough to say it – to admit that white racists have actually made black victims of racism exactly what they claim black people are (violent, stupid, rapists etc). So he is the true anti-racist who proclaims the truth of white supremacy and the truth of his own aryan superiority but then just adds, and its our own fault we’re superior!

    His theme is the exclusive potency of white ideation. White racism has “performative efficiency”; the white imagination brings its fignments into being, molds the world to its designs, transforms the object and abject inferior races into the shape of its fantasies and desires. Be in awe of this white mind, Spirit of the German People as Hegel portrayed it.

  35. Ely's best friend

    The fact of the matter, as has been demonstrated by many people, post-modernism is anti-Marxist gibberish. There is nothing progressive about the ideas they promote, or the things they actually do (when they do anything at all). Despite the claims to the contrary, Zizek is a postmodernist. He learned from them. He spent his time in what Noam Chomsky calls the “Paris Cult” in his article on why he doesn’t get postmodernism. Noam Chomsky doesn’t have the best politics in the world, but he is a certifiable genius in his own right. Are you telling me the founder of modern linguistics is too stupid to decipher Lacan?

    http://www.cscs.umich.edu/~crshalizi/chomsky-on-postmodernism.html

    No body “gets” Lacan, Derrida, Zizek, etc. They don’t make coherent statements. I read a book a long time ago, called “Fashionable Nonsense: Postmodern Intellectuals’ Abuse of Science.” If I remember correctly, the introduction started with a hysterical story about postmodernists and computer programmers at a conference. The first speaker started his speech, got up, and slowly started adding more pomo-gibberish, confounding the audience, until even he couldn’t contain his laughter anymore and everyone burst out into laughter, including the postmodernists (the speaker was a computer programmer). The book goes on to talk about how Lacan tried to show that the square root of negative one is the “signifier” of a male penis. It’s just pure nonsense.

    I have tutored people in advanced mathematics. I have carefully explained to old ladies the concepts of calculus, trigonometry, algebra, statistics, etc. I have allowed them to pass classes to get their certificates and degrees, after they had failed multiple times. Are you telling me that I can teach old ladies and frat boys how to do integration, but someone can’t patiently explain to Noam Chomsky what the fuck Lacan is talking about?

    I am reminded of my grandparents Pentecostal religious services. Eventually when someone starts babbling in tongues, you’re not meant to understand what they’re saying. In the same way, there is no actual meaning to the vast majority of postmodernism. It’s not that I, or May9, or the Marxist-Leninist can’t understand it. It’s not meant to be understood. It is the language of the internal cult-life of Paris intellectuals. To be a party to their clique requires you to speak this way. The truth is, a broad part of the Left even sees Marxism this way, just like rabid atheists see their atheism as justification for believing they are smarter than others. It’s all a bunch of bullshit for children who need to think they’re special because of the ideas in their heads, and not for what they actually do.

    Wasting time of pseudo-intellectual pursuits is for petty-bourgeois, privileged white children. It is not something that will help Marxists in any practical way, or it would have long ago been appropriated by some movement somewhere on this planet. The actual purpose this stuff serves is probably one of further weakening the Left. If you have inclinations toward Marxism, the bourgeois put in front of you at their universities this crap instead. Since this crap is claims to go beyond Marxism, all the way upholding all the anti-communist lies of history, and not actually telling you how to change anything (or even if you should), and further alienating yourself from the masses, postmodernism is a valuable tool for turning petty-bourgeois white children away from being allies of revolution, into being tools of bourgeois reaction. That is the real purpose of postmodernist gibberish. I think it says a lot of about Kasama’s politics that they would even flirt with this crap.

    • I think it would be good to reflect, critically and self-critically on this discussion, which has been interesting and, in my view, mostly productive.

      I think some of the posts here, including my own, perhaps go to far in dismissing some elements of contemporary philosophy, or “the Paris cult of intellectuals” or what have you, and this is getting away from the point of my original post, which I would like to reiterate.

      I’m not opposed to non-Marxist theory. There are three sources of correct ideas according to Marxist epistemology: social activity in production, class struggle, and scientific experiment. Lacanian theory is somewhere in the last category, though it seems to be still mixed to a considerable degree with Freudian metaphysics. However, it is also an attempt to get beyond that, in many ways. Lacan’s theory that “the unconscious is structured like a language” is in my mind, a step forward for psychological thought, and deserves respect.

      Likewise, I think Louis Althusser’s project of sharpening the scientific categories of Marxism and getting rid of Hegelianism is fascinating and has made some real contributions to our understanding of Marxism (the theory of the epistemological break, in particular). Althusser was a polemical philosopher and deserves respect rather than dismissal.

      Alain Badiou, in my mind, is perhaps the only person really doing significant philosophy alive today. He is attempting to look at basic, classical philosophical problems of truth, ethics, and ontology through the lens of a creative Marxism. I don’t agree with many of his political points, but I have never been dismissive of his project.

      My point is not to say all of this is garbage. It isn’t. My point is precisely to say that Zizek is full of shit and shouldn’t be upheld as some kind of great new thinker of the Left. He isn’t. I see no value in his particular enterprise. In fact I remain convinced, perhaps more than at the start of all this, that he probably does more harm than good.

      So this isn’t anti-intellectualism that I am attempting to promote, though I suspect that an anti-intellectual deviation, along with a pure-theoreticist deviation (praising theory for theory’s sake and dismissing the necessary connection to application in practice), has crept into our discussion.

      Furthermore, while we can read these ideas and gain something from them, the basic principle of Marxist epistemology is that practice is the sole critereon of truth, and truth is arrived at through an ongoing dialectical process of practice-theory-practice. For this reason, I find far more value in the writings of those who test their ideas in practice, and those who have recieved the most far reaching tests are Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin, and Mao. When I spoke of the “end of philosophy” it is this epistemological point to which I was mainly referring.

      So, if you’re interested, there’s a rather short book by Lionel Bailly that actually does a pretty good job of explaining Lacan’s core ideas: Lacan: A Beginner’s Guide. Likewise, an excellent explaination of Althusser can be found in the book Althusser and the Renewal of Marxist Social Theory Robert Resch. On Badiou, the book Alain Badiou: A Critical Introduction by Jason Barker does a good job of explaining his ideas, though it isn’t fully up to date. The ideas of these people can be explained clearly and understood with a little effort.

      The question of how to prioritize one’s study time, what to read and why, in relation to other priorities (such as what is for me the pressing priority: building a new communist party through a sustained practical engagement with the people’s struggle in order to fuse Marxism with the working class) is another point all together.

  36. MarxistLeninist you are exactly right. Zizek is full of shit and he is atypical. I have strong obnjections to Badiou’s neo-Platonism but he’s not fraud. Zizek, not critcism of Zizek, is the anti-intellectual peril, which threatenbs to discredit everything that emerges from the academy and the work of everyone who associates with him, a pity because even the most “post-modern” of bourgeois dissident intellectuals can produce scholarship useful to humanity struggling for liberation, for example Judith Butler, a very problematci thinker who has nonetheless made very significant contributions to historical knowledge of oppression and to a vocabulary useful for talking about how domination works to reproduce the status quo of power and property in our society.

    The excuse for Zizek is often than he performs some sort of necessary service just by saying “Marxism” and “Lenin” and “ideology”. The implication is there is that he does someonthing necessary that no one else is willing to do; the truth is he obstructs, discredits, and displaces those who are willing and able to do something – public radical leftist pedgagogy – which he is determined to thwart and interfere with.

    For people interested in reading serious new Marxist writing on the most canonical figures of the Marxist tradition that Zizek is credited with reviving interest in, I would recommend Domenico Losurdo instead.

    For those who want Marxist culture criticism, there is no shortage of celebrity academics who are great: Moretti, Jameson, Eagleton just to name the allstars. For film the choices are endless and few of Zizek’s fans have read any of the classics of Marxist cinema criticism, like Ray’s A Certain Tendency in the Hollywood Cinema. And now even in the reactionary-dominated area of mediology there is a great Marxist scholar and theorist, Jonathan Beller. Those who seek Zizek for psychology should admit that psychoanalysis and Marxism are not compatible, but there have been some serious Marxist efforts to advance some mixture, recently the proposal of a “bifocal” use: Eugene Victor Wolfenstein’s Psychoanalytic Marxism: Groundwork is very compelling and for grown-ups; Joel Kovel is also producing serious work with communist commitments in psychoanalysis, unlike Zizek’s ludicrous Lacanian ravings. There is additionally non-Freudian Marxist psychology that is very persuasive –

    David Smail
    http://www.davidsmail.freeuk.com/
    and David Lethbridge

    In other words, there is no gap that Zizek’s buffoonery is filling, he is just the substitute pseudo-Marxism, like fascism but silly shiny noisy ironic and popomo, with the great marketing and the imprimatur of the New York Times and the bourgeois liberal establishment that is all artificial processed cheese-thought hogging all the shelf space, pleasing an influential culture industry and academic petty bourgeois audience by playing to its worst, most malicious and egoist impulses.

  37. “No body “gets” Lacan, Derrida, Zizek, etc. They don’t make coherent statements.”

    Strange. I know many who get those thinkers just fine. Zizek is hard to read and that is what makes him a postmodernist? Yeah ok there buddy. Zizek is not in the same league as a deconstructionist like Derrida. Difficult? Yes. Pain in the ass sometimes? Yes. Impossible to understand? No. Derrida isn’t even that hard to get.(though I have little to agree with when it comes to him) You just have to put EFFORT into trying to learn it. Don’t expect to pick up a book and have it do the thinking for you. Other then that your rant is pointless for those who take time the time to learn it.

    “Wasting time of pseudo-intellectual pursuits is for petty-bourgeois, privileged white children’

    Quite the assumption there. I am not a privileged person at all, but that is quite the assumption.

    “Oh gee. Not really. But if it were, so? Where is the “surprising insight”? You just think that’s really neat to notice that like soft drinks are supposed to quench thirst but make you thirstier? And a cigarette makes you want another? And lip balm creates the need for itself? Or in another mood that safe sex and caffeine free coffee take the sexy thrill out of dangerous sex and the stimulation out of caffeinated coffee? ”

    You are confusing two different arguments. This is concerning the objet petit a. Yes this is how Modern Capitalism works. The example of Starbucks and Chocolate laxatives (whether or not chocolate does that is not the point) is that you are a consumer yet at the same time they offer a redemption from consumerism. Many who are supposedely on the left or want to make a change for the world buy into this type of reasoning. They think that charity and giving more money or buying organic apples(all products that offer some good in return) will free them from consumerism but it will not nor will it make a change. Take Bill Gates. Considered a great humanitarian but in reality it is just Imperialism with a human face.

    “Maybe, as good Marxists, we should turn it around. Maybe we are trying to change it too much….Remember that when somebody is telling you…“ Let’s do something,” this is the threat. This is the threat….What we need is to withdraw—don’t be afraid to withdraw….Don’t be—don’t feel guilty for withdrawing from immediate engagement.”

    This is not about the Dictactorship of the Proleteriat. He is simply saying don’t jump ahead into action or we end up with pointless violent protests which go nowhere. In his own example, take the Iraq war. Protesters got to protest(save their souls by declaring their opposition) and Bush got to retort with “you see this is the freedom we are fighting for!”. Nothing is changed. However, I find him suggesting withdrawal problematic.(I don’t agree with his views all the time.) However in his “Defense of Lost Causes” he outlines the need for a DOTP. I don’t feel the need to explain the entire last chapter of the book (read it yourself if you can) but in short he argues that the social democratic welfare state is exhausted(as is common knowledge) and that the “part of no Part” or “proleteriat must intervene radically in history. The solution is the eternal idea of revolutionary justice. I do not have time to go into detail, I suggest you read it for yourself sometime. His formula for how it should work is as follows.:

    1.Strict egalitatian Justice( All people should pay the same price in eventual renunciations.)
    2.Terror (Ruthless punishment of all who violate the imposed protective measure, inclusive of severe limitations on “liberal” freedoms.)
    3.voluntarism(Large scale collective decions which run counter to the spontaneous immanent logic of capitalist developement)
    4.Combined with Trust in the People. A combination of terror and trust in the people.

    With that I do not see what is so bad about it. As for Ideology….

  38. “It’s bogus, idealist, covertly Jungian and ignores class and production. And you? What do you make of it?”

    Someone up the conversation asked for his views on Ideology to be explained so I recommend this article. http://www.iep.utm.edu/zizek/

    I do not see how it is Jungian. i am not well versed in Jung so if you can elaborate I will be very interested in hearing what you have to teach me on it. Since the definition is posted in the article, I will say I find his view on ideology quite strong.

    “Moretti, Jameson, Eagleton just to name the allstars.”

    I agree on these thinkers(with Badiou) as being patriculary insightful. On a side note, Eagleton does hold Zizek in high regard.

    “like Ray’s A Certain Tendency in the Hollywood Cinema. And now even in the reactionary-dominated area of mediology there is a great Marxist scholar and theorist, Jonathan Beller. Those who seek Zizek for psychology should admit that psychoanalysis and Marxism are not compatible, but there have been some serious Marxist efforts to advance some mixture, recently the proposal of a “bifocal” use: Eugene Victor Wolfenstein’s Psychoanalytic Marxism: Groundwork is very compelling and for grown-ups; Joel Kovel is also producing serious work with communist commitments in psychoanalysis, unlike Zizek’s ludicrous Lacanian ravings.”

    I will have to check these out, thanks for the recomendations. Even though I defend Zizek, I find a psychoanalytic perspective in Marxism limiting and unsatisfying so far.
    -Tyler

  39. A personal testimonial. Reading Zizek turned me toward Marxism, which took me out of my state of petty bourgeois confusion. Now, it’s true that before I fully embraced (could fully embrace?) Marxism, I had to conclude that it wasn’t worth my while to bother with Lacan(ianism), even though it has evidently helped make Zizek perhaps the pre-eminent thinker of ideology in the (at least western) world today. (I have not concluded not to bother with Hegel.) Is Zizek simply Marxist? No. And I learned more about politics from The 18th Brumaire than from reading several of Zizek’s books (or, for that matter, from studying political science all the way through grad school). But Zizek has now edited or “presented” collections of the writings of Lenin, Trotsky, and Mao, with excellent accompanying essays. He has also, in his own way, sort of rehabilitated (as it were) Stalin(ism). And his work seems to me to be increasingly Marxist, or communist, or revolutionary, or at least political in a good way (certainly more political than the likes of Fredric Jameson, whom I greatly admire). Not enough, mind you, but not so bad either. Perhaps a waste of time for committed Marxists (though perhaps not). But a good enabler of Marxism in students and the petty bourgeoisie, especially where/when there are no viable Marxist parties or organizations. And it seems to me that the greatest ideological task today in the most advanced countries is to get the petty bourgeoisie to abandon/renounce their pseudo-universal illusions/confusions (“democracy”, for example), cease their vacillating, and embrace the proletariat (their own proletarianization, against the general lumpenproletarianization, and against any fantasies of joining the bourgeoisie proper), embrace communism, Marxism.

    (I would love to read more Domenico Losurdo, but I can’t read Italian, and as far as I know only two of his books have been translated into English.)

    • Red Alex, you say that “the greatest ideological task today in the most advanced countries is to get the petty bourgeoisie to abandon/renounce their pseudo-universal illusions/confusions (“democracy”, for example), cease their vacillating, and embrace the proletariat (their own proletarianization, against the general lumpenproletarianization, and against any fantasies of joining the bourgeoisie proper), embrace communism, Marxism.”

      This is quite different from my view, which is that the fusion of Marxism with the working class is the “greatest ideological task”. Maybe this points to why we assign different levels of prioritization to academic ‘Marxist’ philosophy?

      Why do you think the petty bourgeoisie is the most important class that must be won to Marxism? Is this a view of the petty bourgeoisie as the primary revolutionary class?

      • “Working class” is perhaps good terminology for ideological/political purposes, but not so useful for analysis. Who/where is the proletariat today in the most advanced countries? What has outsourcing/deindustrialization done to them? Or has their devastation been exaggerated? It seems to me there is instead increasingly only the petty bourgeoisie (including the surviving labor aristocracy) and the lumpenproletariat. And I fear that philosophers/intellectuals (including Zizek) recently searching for a new proletariat are really only finding the lumpenproletariat. What are the prospects for turning them to Marxism/communism? It’s not an illegitimate question, and I shouldn’t be dismissive, but we Marxists have good reasons for serious doubts. Aren’t intellectual laborers, white collar workers, our best target (though how do we classify service industry workers?)? And tradesmen? And the rest of the petty bourgeoisie? Aren’t they decisive (in the most advanced countries), as peasants were/are in the most backward ones? Or rather, if I can put it this way, the decisive supplement to the proletariat (labor aristocracy? lumpenproletariat? but, yes, we must integrate them as/into the proletariat with Marxist ideology) in those key industries that haven’t been outsourced, even as the capitalists have strategically divided “their” industries (including also “their” workers). I’m certainly open to being convinced otherwise (if, that is, we really, and not merely terminologically, disagree).

      • Red Alex: Here’s a good, relatively quick, read on this question of class that sums up my view: FRSO: Class in the U.S. and Our Strategy for Revolution. I think it gives good answers to the important questions and problems that you raise, and deserves your consideration in looking at this question.

    • “I would love to read more Domenico Losurdo, but I can’t read Italian, and as far as I know only two of his books have been translated into English.”

      This is unfortunately true, but everything but the new Nietzsche and the new Stalin book is available in some translations – Spanish, French, German, so there may be one you can read. In English, the book on Hegel and modernity, the book on Heidegger and war fever, both great, and I think his paper on Lenin for that wretchedly named “lenin reloaded” conference is in the book of the conference.

      tyler seriously

      “rotesters got to protest(save their souls by declaring their opposition) and Bush got to retort with “you see this is the freedom we are fighting for!”.”

      How can this take you in? What’s he up to here? As someone observant noted it is Zizek performing as Bush’s pr or handler, “have you anything to say to the protestors, Mr. President?” It’s just slander of the left and trying to intimidate young people – university students – to stay away from political action by saying “you look like such a wanker! look at Bush, he’s laughing at you and using you! Wanker!” He didn the same about altermondialism. This unfortunately is effective on young people who lack self confidence and are susceptible to peer pressure and fear looking “uncool”.

      You have to be one of these adolescents to bring Bush’s utterance forward as “proof” that protests are worthless and the antiwar movement are those caricatures of him, granola crunching organic coffee drinking beautiful soul ethical consumers. There is something beyond the tv screen. Nobody expects some immediate result like in a Hollywood movie, the end of V for Vendetta, and if Zizek can convince you that there’s no point to protesting against a genocidal war because the spectacle he offers of it shows Bush as the most macho lopping off your balls with his line, then you should, if you acdtually claim to be interested in critical thinking and question, investigate that. Find out why this manipulates you so easily. When you have a strong defensive response to critcism of him – how dare you suggest a decent man like Zizek (Dora’s gfather) would do so horrible…..!!!!! Then take that as a hint you have repressed something, perhaps your awareness of all the disgusting and reactionary stuff in his work, and the rather crude (Nietzsche “reloaded”) way he taunts and manipulates a weak and suadable audience, who are, not surprisingly, overwhelmingly downwardly mobile, petty bourgeois white men.

  40. “Ely’s best friend” re-reading your post and my response I believe I denounced you too fast in a rather dickish response. I apologize. I would like to add that Zizek is indeed incomprehinsible to the majority who do not have the time to sift through writing like his. I do not think his work would lead a revolution, rather just inform and help us weave through the political complexeties of culture. I do understand where you are coming from. One of my main criticisms of Postmodernism like Derrida, is the obssesive need to make ideas far more difficult then they really are.

    ” But Zizek has now edited or “presented” collections of the writings of Lenin, Trotsky, and Mao, with excellent accompanying essays. He has also, in his own way, sort of rehabilitated (as it were) Stalin(ism). And his work seems to me to be increasingly Marxist, or communist, or revolutionary, or at least political in a good way”

    I recommend these essays also. I thank you as someone who as also actually read many of his works and recognizes the increasing revolutionary perspective in his writings, though you are correct in pointing out their is alot more then Marxism in his writings.(which I do not find necassary, but insightful nonetheless.) I do not agree with Zizek on Stalin most of the time, but we have to concede that he is opening the dialogue on Stalin in academic circles, let’s face it, Stalin is way too unfairly denounced in academia in the west, and I thank Zizek for opening up that discussion.

    “Perhaps a waste of time for committed Marxists (though perhaps not). ”

    Perhaps not is right. For any committed Marxist who is interested in Philosophy and Critical Theory, he is indispensable in sorting through the complexities of our culture.
    “This is quite different from my view, which is that the fusion of Marxism with the working class is the “greatest ideological task”. Maybe this points to why we assign different levels of prioritization to academic ‘Marxist’ philosophy”

    This is a good point. Though not addressed at me, I agree that the fusion of Marxism with the general working class is the greatest ideological struggle today. I do not think the petty bourgesoie is the most important class but in the advanced countries it certaintly is important.(I don’t think you deny that though)Getting them to renounce their illusions of joining the bourgesoie is an urgent task. I will speak from experience as a Marxist student in Alberta, Canada. When there is a small Communist party in Canada(which a lot of people do not even know exists) and very little if any movements, Zizek and others like him have indeed awakened revolutionary potential in the students here, among the petty bourgesoie there is little else to turn too. The petty bourgesoie here know either becoming fully absorbed into bourgesoie lifestyle or living some kind of tragic quasi-marxism, living day to day feeling futile about state of the world yet ignoring the struggle. So as a starting point it is very useful.

    Anyways, I will not be able to respond for the next while, so this is my last post on the subject. Thanks for the interesting and productive debate. (and the recommendations to learn more)
    Regards,

    Tyler

  41. I suppose I think of your upper working class as being petty bourgeois, much of your middle working class as being labor aristocratic or petty bourgeois, much of your lower working class as being lumpenproletarian, and your upper petty bourgeoisie as being bourgeois proper (or upper middle class, but not haute bourgeois, which is the capitalist ruling class–appropriately divided into monopoly and national/regional bourgeoisie). (But again, why “working class” and no mention of the “proletariat”? An admission that there isn’t much of a Marxist proletariat in the U.S.?) Which again/indeed means “it is the central task of revolutionaries to create a new communist party”, not least of all for the sake of unified thought, ideology, terminology. As a Canadian, I would like it to be North American.

  42. And Tyler I wasn’t “confusing two ideas”, I was referencing two different but related motifs in Zizek’s repetitive work. That’s why they are linked by the phrase “in another mood” – that is, this same framework of presenting the obvious (for example that Bill Gates is rich, a member of the ruling class; Zizek shocks you by disabusing you of your assumptiong that Bill Gates is a revolutionary communist) as a radical critique, is vended in a set of repeated motifs. One is “chocolate laxitive” – very telling since what he shows is how he manipulates his audience, you. He distracts you by seeming to say something super radical (Soros is not really a revolutonarty!) like a magician, that’s the big explosion. While with his other hand, he has convinced of a falsehood – he has convinced you that chocolate constipates. It’s not true, but you are so won over by the purple smoke and lights that you accept it, you have to accept it to make sense of the show, and your desire to make sense of the show makes you accept falsehoods for the sake of the seemingly unrelated emotional payoff. You also accept that the elevator closed door button is a ruse.

    That you now believe chocolate constipates, not because he insisted on it, but he in passing got you to agree not to object because the anecdote needs you to let it go, is not important. But he also gets you to believe things that matter this way – he convinces you to accept that the Strojan committed crimes, that “white culture” exists, that Iran has a secret weapons programme, that “liberal multiculturalists” always “blame the West” for the “Third World’s atrocities” by saying “they” only “imitate our past”…all these reactionary unfactual formulas are foisted on you “in passing”, quickly on the way to some light and sound show, like the notion that chocolate constipates. For you to enjoy the punchline, you have to accept the set up, you can’t pause and say “wait a minute, the protestors against the Danish cartoons didn’t kill anyone!” or “wait a second, what ‘immoral killings’ are you accusing Lavalas of committing?” or you derail the rant and ruin your own pleasure.

  43. “You have to be one of these adolescents to bring Bush’s utterance forward as “proof” that protests are worthless and the antiwar movement are those caricatures of him, granola crunching organic coffee drinking beautiful soul ethical consumers. There is something beyond the tv screen. Nobody expects some immediate result like in a Hollywood movie, the end of V for Vendetta, and if Zizek can convince you that there’s no point to protesting against a genocidal war because the spectacle he offers of it shows Bush as the most macho lopping off your balls with his line, then you should, if you acdtually claim to be interested in critical thinking and question, investigate that”

    I was summing up Zizek’s own argument in a response to your post that that was his views of the dictactorship of the proleteriat. I only shared that to show that they are different ideeas(as I outlined his views on the DOTP right after) I never agreed with Zizek here. That would also make me a hypocrite considering I have took part in many protests and organizing them as well. Like I said, I do not agree with him all of the time, I just find much gold in his writings.

    ” Zizek shocks you by disabusing you of your assumptiong that Bill Gates is a revolutionary communist”

    Never thought he was. He is just when of the major players in trying to fix capitalism and making it ethical somehow. Which as we all know is ridicolous.

    Regards,
    Tyler

  44. Harriet, you make an interesting argument (about Zizek’s rhetoric). But I would say rather that too much of Zizek’s “analysis” of superstructure seems to be made on the fly–it’s all grist for the mill of his Lacanianism and his struggle with German idealism. (And he has too little analysis of the base, but after all he’s a philosopher, not an economist–bourgeois division of labor!). But his dominant tone is anti-postmodernist, anti-New Age, anti-liberal, anti-social democrat, anti-bourgeois charity/moralism, and this is all good. If he appears backward/reactionary to you (because of his attacks against bourgeois and/or petty bourgeois moralism, against postmodern values), that’s too bad. And, for what it’s worth, chocolate does indeed cause constipation. Eat a bunch today, and see for yourself.

  45. “But his dominant tone is anti-postmodernist, anti-New Age, anti-liberal, anti-social democrat, anti-bourgeois charity/moralism, and this is all good.”

    Glenn Beck’s dominant tone is all this too. And Anne Coulter. And Howard Stern. And, if we insert ‘avanguardia’ instead of postmodernism, Goebbels is all good too.

  46. And you’re wrong about chocolate, but you know that somewhere deep down, I suspect; you certainly know that for facts of that sort one can site a study or not.

  47. I think I’ve said enough about Zizek. And read enough of Zizek to think him rather more Marxist than fascist, your accusations and citations notwithstanding. And, uh, as for citing (or, ridiculously, even having to cite!) studies/authorities stating the constipating effect of chocolate: you certainly know how to use the internet, so simply google “chocolate and constipation” and, once again, see for yourself.

    • This discussion has gone on and on. In my view, it has worn out its productivity and is now getting rather repetitious. So I’m closing comments on this post.

      Thanks to everyone for a great discussion!