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Tag Archives: Slavoj Zizek

Talking to the Left: Zizek and Levy

If we take the Gadamerian advisment that lived dialogue is the lesson to be learned from the Platonic dialogues, and not any particular content or Theory, one must admit that it is a pleasure, even an edifying pleasure, to listen to two intelligent persons in discussion.

Here is a recording of a discussion between two “Lefts”: the “half-pessimistic Marxist” Zizek, and the son of May ’68 intellectualism Bernard-Henry Levy, conducted at the New York Public Library on September 16th, 2008. In dialogue the theoretical/political differences between them somehow become translated in something of the way Zizek humorously describes,

Rhett Butler says to the woman, Scartlett O’Harra, ‘Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn’, like “F, three points, off” In Japan I was told, where they are very polite, you know how they translated this line when they subtitled the film? Something like, ‘Frankly my dear, I think there is a slight misunderstanding…between the two of us’… So in this sense, maybe there is a slight misunderstanding [between us]…maybe

Between each speakers’ frequent return visits to rehearsed points, heart-felt slogans and comforting illustrations, there is the experience of a communication, a meeting together. Instead of a string of sitcoms, TV dramas, or even a newshour, this nearly two hours of waxing and waning of “talk” measures something of a happy experience, where happy connotes the good life. The French riots, the consequences of ’68, the role of anti-semiticism in Israel/Palestinian stalemates, the difficulties with personal charity, the future of the Left, the problem of Fundamentalism amid Capitalist freedoms, the Fascism in the phrase Islamo-fascism, the necessary Presidency of Palin vs. the liberal path of more and more political freedoms, are all talked over, with some light. And it’s compelling to hear Zizek in his characteristic gesture say, “I agree with you without question/without reserveration/100%, when you say…”

The mp3 found over here, on this mp3 page, over at Prōlogus.

A Touch More On Žižek

I was reading over at No Useless Leniency and it got me thinking about the “use” of Žižek, the place for his revelations. This was my response to these thoughts, which flowed from yesterday’s post, and the comments that followed; this a product of his thinking sitting within me for some time now, for much more than a decade. Unfortunately this sounds more bloggish than my usual entries, but it is worth posting:

I have to say that the “There is no Other of the Other” as a teaspoon of medicine works quite well, helping one see the nature of any manifestation of The Great Oz, but when you realize that the Other of the suturing Other is a necessary illusionary fold in a social field, the full weight of this critique becomes difficult to balance. As someone strummed and banged, “Meet the new boss…”

What concerns me is that such King-stripping contains its own satisfactions, its own perverse little joy of “ah ha!” or “gotcha!” which is one of the immense pleasures of reading Zizek as he performs his psychoanalytic Judo again again and again like a sociological master. We see the flips, but what about his ground-game, who is going to tap-out from the ideological arm-bar?

Don’t get me wrong, Zizek is a sheer pleasure for the contemplating, but I think I can sense of what makes him perpetually disappointed with his followers (without analyzing him). There is indeed the pleasure of interpretation, which makes his readings of films most satisfying, setting the battlefield upon every aesthetic surface. This is a good thing. But it seems that Zizek feels a vital connection to his conclusions, his opera, that has an immediacy that others simply cannot match.

This makes me feel that the path to “genuine” revolution, even that advocated by Zizek, is of the microscopic kind, the affective body-building of organizing powers which do not benefit so much from the Oz-defying adage “There is no Other of the Other” or even more enjoyably, “(M)Other”. One wonders if the phenomena of Zizek itself is best understood within a communitarian sense of constructive values, rather than in the ultimate satisfactions of the interpretive revelations that he champions. This is not to say that tracing the reservoirs of “enjoyment” cannot be a very good means of measuring social discourse and construction. Every objection to the claims of others seems to contain some element of an unstated objection to their hidden enjoyments. I think it wise to see that the organization of enjoyment is a primary guide to organizations of shared perceptions and actions. But dunotarian proclivities, it seems, could be folded into larger conceptions of constructive agency and action. Is our fundamental realization supposed to be that we are locked in a red room? Is this the limits of our discursive and bodily imagination?


Slavoj Žižek: A “Human” Example

If any are unfamiliar (and we must assume that some are not swept up in the Academio-acculturation of a protesting Self) or simply have lost track of him under some characterization, I encourage those who have a love of philosophy to consider the “human” example of Slavoj Zizek, a Lacanian philosopher and sociologist.

A wonderful documentary that focuses not only on his ideas, but his extraordinary personage.

A recent, September 9th lecture given in Oregon, on the nature of politeness.

Or, this prospective examination of the film Children of Men.

Zizeks early books definitely made an impression on me, opening the door to Lacanian thinking and cultural analysis, the melding of philosophy to the matters of social concern. I remember attending one of his lectures a decade ago and asking a question on Israel whose premise horrified him. What I suggest is that more than the ultimate validity of his synthesis of Hegel, Kant and Lacan, which can be of interest, it is his lived experience of the significance of philosophy that perhaps gives its most compelling argument for its relevance. As much as Zizek is at pains to not be “human” just like all of “us”, subsumed in the ideology of normalcy, it really is the affective example of his experience of alienation and his thought-out articulation in response to it which allows us to embrace his very sincerity of project, if not his conclusions.

If there were any intellectual I would like to sit down to dinner with, it would be this man.