He really was! Just on point, entertaining, insightful, dogmatic and still modest and congenial. Overall I imagine he would be a pretty good guest for dinner.
One thing: I ran into a fellow classmate from my Hegel and Marx course last Winter, and he seemed to be pretty happy with the talk, but said something I that gave me pause. With a wry smile suggesting that he knew more than everybody else, he said “They all take him so seriously.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“Oh it’s all in the service of communism. He’s doing this to get the boring film studies professors on side [ed. note - I’m not sure that the boring film studies profs are the ones we need on-side for the revolution]. I like that. That’s why I always teach Sophocles and argue for him.”
I kinda frowned and said “uh, well…” but he was leaving the theatre so I shook his hand and said good night, suggesting a meet-up at some point whenever I find myself at York.
Like I really respect this guy, he’s an activist and an organizer himself. He really practices what he preaches, and isn’t some kind of vulgar vanguardist. But it’s this kind of knowing that I totally hate in academics, especially when we assume that the writings of academics are really just sophist ploys to trick us into doing what’s best for all us.
That doesn’t mean I am totally against sophism! I came out pretty on-side with Malcolm Harris’ use of twitter as a platform to twist truths to impact outcomes. We can’t sit on a high horse and say that truth is on our side. That’s foolish and a dead end.
But I also believe in taking positions and being honest about them. I don’t think Žižek is engaging in some kind of rhetorical strategy to convince the masses of things we aren’t capable of understanding like a “good Stalinist”. I was reminded of this tweet I saw Zizek_ebooks spit out last month:
‘He’s a funny provocateur,’ they say. ‘He just likes to provoke.’ I don’t provoke. I’m very naive; I mean what I say. Fuck you.
He means what he says. Take the man seriously rather than smirk and think you are in on some kind of secret.
I thought it was in October so now I’m missing the Zizek talk at 1am.
I DO however have tickets to The Perverts Guide to Ideology (finally) his accompanying talk (finally) on Monday.
And thus I will hopefully get to see one of the world’s best philosophers ramble for about half an hour and hear some poorly worded questions.
But I’m mostly sad about missing Nuit Blanche (oddly enough).
My personal experience is that practically all of the “radical” academics silently count on the long-term stability of the American capitalist model, with the secure tenured position as their ultimate professional goal (a surprising number of them even play on the stock market). If there is a thing they are genuinely horrified of, it is a radical shattering of the (relatively) safe life environment of the “symbolic classes” in the developed Western societies. Their excessive Politically Correct zeal when dealing with sexism, racism, Third World sweatshops, etc., is thus ultimately a defense against their own innermost identification, a kind of compulsive ritual whose hidden logic is: “Let’s talk as much as possible about the necessity of a radical change to make sure that nothing will really change!Slavoj Zizek - The Prospects of Radical Politics Today (via)
But most of all, the gift that Žižek has given us is the sense that it’s time to take clear, blunt positions on issues, after a two-decade interlude in which prose was always supposed to meander and hedge its bets and regard puns as if they were philosophical arguments. That was the 1980′s and much of the 1990′s, and Žižek was one of those who dealt that style a death-blow.Graham Harman - Review of Žižek in The New Statesman
When one billiard ball strikes another, it treats its victim as a simple mobile mass, and remains unattuned to its other concealed teasures - the richness of its imperfect plastic texture, its suddenly irrelevant color or its vague synthetic fragrance. No object ever unlocks the entirety of a second object, ever translates it completely literally into its own native tongue. After all, we can always imagine the appearance of some new entity on the scene, one that would respond to a previously undisclosed reality in even the most uninteresting plastic ball. Modifying our previous example [of a stove resting on top of an icy lake] , let’s say the icy lake is not composed simply of water, but of contaminated water. Obviously this contamination is unimportant for our metallic appliance (assuring that this poison does not also affect freezing temperature or other factors that might be pertinent to it). But for the fish and ducks who also inhabit the lake, the water has now become instantly lethal. Given the absence of marine animals, however, this property would never be brought to the stage in any way at all. In this sense, Žižek is right to hold that the reality of the lake is constituted retroactively by the entities encountering it. Until some vile sadist releases trout into the toxic lake, there is a sense in which it is not yet really lethal. Poisonousness is not a static feature sitting around in the lake just waiting to be discovered, but a relational property that requires the trout no less than the lake. All of the properties by which we can define the lake are going to be relational in this way, meaning that there is no good way to specify its tool-being. But the fact that we cannot specify it is no reason to grant privilege either to the network of negotiations between things (Latour) or the fantasizing subject who posits the gap between fish-killing lake and its hidden being (Žižek). Both of these approaches view as superfluous any talk of the withdrawn objects themselves. But the fact that we know these objects only through their appearances precisely does not mean that they only are through their appearances. This the whole point of Heidegger’s tool-analysis.
Graham Harman in Tool-Being: Heidegger and the Metaphysics of Objects
Harman has been a delight to read, especially considering I have never read Heidegger before. It’s certainly giving me ammunition for a paper on the ontology of Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP that I’m hoping to have ready for CGSA this year.
Much like waterways can be overfished, the pork parts market can be over-McRibbed.Ian Bogost on the McRib, Chicken McNuggets and Žižekian (Lacanian) psychoanalysis.
They tell you we are dreamers. The true dreamers are those who think things can go on indefinitely the way they are. We are not dreamers. We are awakening from a dream which is tuning into a nightmare. We are not destroying anything. We are only witnessing how the system is destroying itself. We all know the classic scenes from cartoons. The cart reaches a precipice. But it goes on walking. Ignoring the fact that there is nothing beneath. Only when it looks down and notices it, it falls down. This is what we are doing here. We are telling the guys there on Wall Street – Hey, look down!
I’m typically not much a fan of Žižek, but this is dead on.
Carnivals come cheap. What matters is the day after … our basic message is: we are allowed to think about alternatives.Žižek at OWS.
Shoplifters of the World Unite - Slavoj Žižek on the meaning of the riots (via rumagin)
Repetition, according to Hegel, plays a crucial role in history: when something happens just once, it may be dismissed as an accident, something that might have been avoided if the situation had been handled differently; but when the same event repeats itself, it is a sign that a deeper historical process is unfolding. When Napoleon lost at Leipzig in 1813, it looked like bad luck; when he lost again at Waterloo, it was clear that his time was over. The same holds for the continuing financial crisis. In September 2008, it was presented by some as an anomaly that could be corrected through better regulations etc; now that signs of a repeated financial meltdown are gathering it is clear that we are dealing with a structural phenomenon.
We are told again and again that we are living through a debt crisis, and that we all have to share the burden and tighten our belts. All, that is, except the (very) rich. The idea of taxing them more is taboo: if we did, the argument runs, the rich would have no incentive to invest, fewer jobs would be created and we would all suffer. The only way to save ourselves from hard times is for the poor to get poorer and the rich to get richer. What should the poor do? What can they do?
This is an interesting article. Points to chew on in my unresolved quest to figure our what model of organization makes the most sense. I’m pretty well over the informal affinity group type of bullshit organizing anarchists tend to advocate and I’m frustrated by how unambituous most leftist projects are, but I’m still wary of Zizek’s enthusiasm for party building. It’s a bind… But somehow we need to get over the 20th century’s failures and traumas and find ways to be a real force again.(via jenniferanne)
I am utterly pessimistic about the future, about the possibility of an emancipated communist society. But that doesn’t mean I don’t want to imagine it.Žižek// A life in Writing
Our blindness to the results of systemic violence is perhaps most clearly perceptible in debates about communist crimes. Responsibility for communist crimes is easy to allocate: we are dealing with subjective evil, with agents who did wrong. We can even identify the ideological sources of the crimes-totalitarian ideology, The Communist Manifesto, Rousseau, even Plato. But when one draws attention to the millions who died as a the result of capitalist globalisation, from the tragedy of Mexico in the 16th century through to the Belgian Congo holocaust a century ago, responsibility is largely denied. All this seems just to have happened as the result of an ‘objective’ process, which nobody planned and executed and for which there was not ‘Capitalist Manifesto.’ (The one who came closest to writing one is Ayn Rand.)Zizek, Violence (via ghoulmann)
Apologists present cloud computing as the next logical step in the “natural evolution” of the Internet, and while in an abstract-technological way this is true, there is nothing “natural” in the progressive privatization of global cyberspace. There is nothing “natural” in the fact that two or three companies in a quasi-monopolistic position can not only set prices at will but also filter the software they provide to give its “universality” a particular twist depending on commercial and ideological interests.Slavoj Žižek: Corporate Rule of Cyberspace