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)