June 15, 2012
Slavoj Žižek: 'Humanity is OK, but 99% of people are boring idiots'
From The Guardian:
If you have read all of Žižek's work, you are doing better than me. Born in 1949, the Slovenian philosopher and cultural critic grew up under Tito in the former Yugoslavia, where suspicions of dissidence consigned him to academic backwaters. He came to western attention in 1989 with his first book written in English, The Sublime Object of Ideology, a re-reading of Žižek's great hero Hegel through the perspective of another hero, the psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan. Since then there have been titles such as Living in the End Times, along with films – The Pervert's Guide To Cinema – and more articles than I can count. By the standards of cultural theory, Žižek sits at the more accessible end of the spectrum – but to give you an idea of where that still leaves him, here's a typical quote from a book called Žižek: A Guide for the Perplexed, intended to render him more comprehensible: "Žižek finds the place for Lacan in Hegel by seeing the Real as the correlate of the self-division and self-doubling within phenomena." At the risk of upsetting Žižek's fanatical global following, I would say that a lot of his work is impenetrable. But he writes with exhilarating ambition and his central thesis offers a perspective even his critics would have to concede is thought-provoking. In essence, he argues that nothing is ever what it appears, and contradiction is encoded in almost everything. Most of what we think of as radical or subversive – or even simply ethical – doesn't actually change anything. "Like when you buy an organic apple, you're doing it for ideological reasons, it makes you feel good: 'I'm doing something for Mother Earth,' and so on. But in what sense are we engaged? It's a false engagement. Paradoxically, we do these things to avoid really doing things. It makes you feel good. You recycle, you send £5 a month to some Somali orphan, and you did your duty." But really, we've been tricked into operating safety valves that allow the status quo to survive unchallenged? "Yes, exactly." The obsession of western liberals with identity politics only distracts from class struggle, and while Žižek doesn't defend any version of communism ever seen in practice, he remains what he calls a "complicated Marxist" with revolutionary ideals.
To his critics, as one memorably put it, he is the Borat of philosophy, churning out ever more outrageous statements for scandalous effect."The problem with Hitler was that he was not violent enough," for example, or "I am not human. I am a monster." Some dismiss him as a silly controversialist; others fear him as an agitator for neo-Marxist totalitarianism. But since the financial crisis he has been elevated to the status of a global-recession celebrity, drawing crowds of adoring followers who revere him as an intellectual genius. His popularity is just the sort of paradox Žižek delights in because if it were down to him, he says, he would rather not talk to anyone.
Posted by Azra Raza at 06:44 AM | Permalink