Welcome to The Valve
Login
Register


Valve Links

The Front Page
Statement of Purpose

John Holbo - Editor
Scott Eric Kaufman - Editor
Aaron Bady
Adam Roberts
Amardeep Singh
Andrew Seal
Bill Benzon
Daniel Green
Jonathan Goodwin
Joseph Kugelmass
Lawrence LaRiviere White
Marc Bousquet
Matt Greenfield
Miriam Burstein
Ray Davis
Rohan Maitzen
Sean McCann
Guest Authors

Laura Carroll
Mark Bauerlein
Miriam Jones

Past Valve Book Events

cover of the book Theory's Empire

Event Archive

cover of the book The Literary Wittgenstein

Event Archive

cover of the book Graphs, Maps, Trees

Event Archive

cover of the book How Novels Think

Event Archive

cover of the book The Trouble With Diversity

Event Archive

cover of the book What's Liberal About the Liberal Arts?

Event Archive

cover of the book The Novel of Purpose

Event Archive

The Valve - Closed For Renovation

Happy Trails to You

What’s an Encyclopedia These Days?

Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Intimate Enemies: What’s Opera, Doc?

Alphonso Lingis talks of various things, cameras and photos among them

Feynmann, John von Neumann, and Mental Models

Support Michael Sporn’s Film about Edgar Allen Poe

Philosophy, Ontics or Toothpaste for the Mind

Nazi Rules for Regulating Funk ‘n Freedom

The Early History of Modern Computing: A Brief Chronology

Computing Encounters Being, an Addendum

On the Origin of Objects (towards a philosophy of computation)

Symposium on Graeber’s Debt

The Nightmare of Digital Film Preservation

Richard Petti on Occupy Wall Street: America HAS a Ruling Class

Bill Benzon on Whatwhatwhatwhatwhatwhatwhat?

Nick J. on The Valve - Closed For Renovation

Bill Benzon on Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Norma on Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Bill Benzon on What’s an Object, Metaphysically Speaking?

john balwit on What’s an Object, Metaphysically Speaking?

William Ray on That Shakespeare Thing

Bill Benzon on That Shakespeare Thing

William Ray on That Shakespeare Thing

JoseAngel on That Shakespeare Thing

Bill Benzon on Objects and Graeber's Debt

Bill Benzon on A Dirty Dozen Sneaking up on the Apocalypse

JoseAngel on A Dirty Dozen Sneaking up on the Apocalypse

JoseAngel on Objects and Graeber's Debt

Advanced Search

Articles
RSS 1.0 | RSS 2.0 | Atom

Comments
RSS 1.0 | RSS 2.0 | Atom

XHTML | CSS

Powered by Expression Engine
Logo by John Holbo

Creative Commons Licence
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

 


Blogroll

2blowhards
About Last Night
Academic Splat
Acephalous
Amardeep Singh
Beatrice
Bemsha Swing
Bitch. Ph.D.
Blogenspiel
Blogging the Renaissance
Bookslut
Booksquare
Butterflies & Wheels
Cahiers de Corey
Category D
Charlotte Street
Cheeky Prof
Chekhov’s Mistress
Chrononautic Log
Cliopatria
Cogito, ergo Zoom
Collected Miscellany
Completely Futile
Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind
Conversational Reading
Critical Mass
Crooked Timber
Culture Cat
Culture Industry
CultureSpace
Early Modern Notes
Easily Distracted
fait accompi
Fernham
Ferule & Fescue
Ftrain
GalleyCat
Ghost in the Wire
Giornale Nuovo
God of the Machine
Golden Rule Jones
Grumpy Old Bookman
Ideas of Imperfection
Idiocentrism
Idiotprogrammer
if:book
In Favor of Thinking
In Medias Res
Inside Higher Ed
jane dark’s sugarhigh!
John & Belle Have A Blog
John Crowley
Jonathan Goodwin
Kathryn Cramer
Kitabkhana
Languagehat
Languor Management
Light Reading
Like Anna Karina’s Sweater
Lime Tree
Limited Inc.
Long Pauses
Long Story, Short Pier
Long Sunday
MadInkBeard
Making Light
Maud Newton
Michael Berube
Moo2
MoorishGirl
Motime Like the Present
Narrow Shore
Neil Gaiman
Old Hag
Open University
Pas au-delà
Philobiblion
Planned Obsolescence
Printculture
Pseudopodium
Quick Study
Rake’s Progress
Reader of depressing books
Reading Room
ReadySteadyBlog
Reassigned Time
Reeling and Writhing
Return of the Reluctant
S1ngularity::criticism
Say Something Wonderful
Scribblingwoman
Seventypes
Shaken & Stirred
Silliman’s Blog
Slaves of Academe
Sorrow at Sills Bend
Sounds & Fury
Splinters
Spurious
Stochastic Bookmark
Tenured Radical
the Diaries of Franz Kafka
The Elegant Variation
The Home and the World
The Intersection
The Litblog Co-Op
The Literary Saloon
The Literary Thug
The Little Professor
The Midnight Bell
The Mumpsimus
The Pinocchio Theory
The Reading Experience
The Salt-Box
The Weblog
This Public Address
This Space: The Fire’s Blog
Thoughts, Arguments & Rants
Tingle Alley
Uncomplicatedly
Unfogged
University Diaries
Unqualified Offerings
Waggish
What Now?
William Gibson
Wordherders

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Blogs In The News; Poor Little Doggy

Posted by John Holbo on 10/04/05 at 06:50 AM

Hey, take a look at Henry Farrell's new Chron of Higher Ed piece; functionally, an anti-Tribble. No, really. Forthright boosterism is needed by our kind. He's saying something that needs to be said; and not just on a blog. Please don't interpret Henry's beamishness as ego (as I see his first commenter promptly did.) Speaking of ego, Henry kindly quotes me: "the difference between academic publishing and blogging is reminiscent of 'one of those Star Trek or Twilight Zone episodes where it turns out there is another species sharing the same space with us, but so sped up or slowed down in time, relatively, that contact is almost impossible.'" I thought that was an apt throw-away and am glad Henry caught and slowenated it, so it can live in the amber-like atmosphere breathed by the eerily Ent-like beings of print-dimension Goo-10-bhurgh.

At the risk of causing Matt to go completely scanners:

The recent debate on the Theory's Empire anthology, organized by the Valve, demonstrates how blogospheric argument can work. Theory's Empire is an ambitious volume, which seeks to provide a dissident's version of the Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism and to argue against the perceived pre-eminence of "theory" in literary criticism. The book is now beginning to attract attention from the mainstream media and will probably be the subject of symposia and debates over the next couple of years. A semi-organized symposium on the Valve, the blog of the Association of Literary Scholars and Critics, allowed a wide-ranging and active debate on the book within several weeks of its publication. The debate included responses from authors of pieces in Theory's Empire, as well as from prominent academics like John McGowan (an editor of the Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism) and Michael Bérubé, both of whom have successful blogs. But it also included, on an equal footing, responses from nonspecialists, like the Berkeley economics professor Brad DeLong, and from nonacademic bloggers with an interest in the topic, like Kevin Drum of The Washington Monthly. The result: an unusually high level of intelligent discussion around a topic more usually associated with stale pro- and anti-theory polemics. As McGowan describes it, "This is not yet another round in the culture and theory wars. ... Is it possible that academics interested in such questions have won their way through to a place where they can be discussed and examined calmly? As someone whose most usual stance has been a plague on both your houses, I am hopeful."

Obviously you are free to discount heavily for the shocking incest of the CT-connection. Henry is my good friend. But perhaps some of our sterner critics might pause to wonder why Bérubé and McGowan apparently thought it was not a not bad bit of a break from the tedious adipose cadences of Culture War Sitzkrieg, circa 1992? Hmmm, yes?

But you know what's a better way to talk about that? To not even try to talk about it like that.

In an attempt to keep things hereabouts positive, or at least substantive, I note this brontosaurus tail of a thread, wagging a rather small dog - about Zizek, who may or may not have things to say about revolution.

I guess I'm putting off my PMLA thing another day. What is it about Zizek? (Z eats ease, to quote TMBG.)

In the hopes of ballasting the poor little doggy, whiptailed round in ever widening gyres, be it noted I have written an academic, peer-reviewed, honest-to-gosh paper paper on this subject, for Philosophy and Literature. "On Zizek and Trilling" (PDF). That's a preprint; final version has fewer typos, more haceks. The paper is severely critical of Zizek's book, On Belief, but I haven't really gotten any serious critical push-back from Zizekians. (Of course not, it's an academic paper. People only read blogs.) If people want to say Sean is wrong to say such negative things about Zizek, perhaps they can hit the ball against the substantive wall of my paper, to better effect.


Comments

was not a not bad bit of a break (oops)

Always nice to have a sacrificial victim.  As René Girard once said, “I don’t imagine this getting old anytime soon.” (Says?  Is he still alive?).  Bérubé was indeed wise not to harp on the culture war, risk of only slightly more nuanced repetition bit, though the context(s) hardly escaped his attention, (whilst pro bono teaching some Formalism and defending himself against wrong attacks in the same breath.

By Matt on 10/04/05 at 12:44 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Generally, it’s nice to have the Valve spoken well of (esp. after the earlier piece about how the TE discussion was not punchy enough).

Thank you, Henry Farrell.

By Amardeep on 10/04/05 at 12:58 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Ah, the tedious adipose cadences of Culture War Sitzkrieg, circa 1992.  I liked them better in the original German, myself.

Oh, wait, Sitzkreig is German.  My bad.

By Michael Bérubé on 10/04/05 at 04:23 PM | Permanent link to this comment

The “On Zizek and Trilling” seems to have turned out pretty well; it’s more polished than previous versions.  I note, purely descriptively, that it’s a harsher criticism of Zizek than any that I’ve seen here or elsewhere.  Perhaps we will see something interesting on it by the, to use Matt’s description, “published and tenured professor currently finishing a book on, of all things, Zizek” and “others gracing us with their attendance includ[ing] at least one brilliant student and several serious readers of Zizek”.

By on 10/04/05 at 04:36 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Matt, I might also note that when you characterized our TE event as little more than a “brazen display of laziness and intellectual chauvenism, the easiest and most vulnerable targets available to suit the polemical purposes of the established agenda” you (ahem) misspelled chauvinism (or is it mispelled? I have trouble with that one.) No doubt it was not laziness or merely a misfired finger but some sort of hyper-vigilant overcorrection on your part, I wouldn’t dream of hinting the contrary. Some sort of orthographic autimmune systematicity kicked into overdrive. (Memo to self: read more Derrida) On the other hand, the extra ‘not’ I left lying about was sheer laziness. Absolutely. So it was right for you to seize on that as the problem with the post.

Whew! I was afraid this thread wouldn’t focus on a substantive critique of a named Theorist. (Which really would have been ironic, given the ... um, cadence, of Matt’s drumbeat of criticism in recent days.)

I think maybe a song parody will warm our brains up to philosophy:

I was lazy when I wrote this
Forgive me for my chauvinism
But when I read my piece this mornin’
Coulda sworn it was a cataclysm
The prose was all purple,
There were premises, everywhere
Against my piece your thesis is at best
a kind of catechresis

say say two thousand zero five party over,
oops out of time
So tonight you’re gonna party like it’s 1992.

By the by, Matt, who do you take to be the sacrificial victim in all this? And what do you think of my Zizek piece? I’m curious.

By John Holbo on 10/04/05 at 09:44 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Maybe this would sound better, in the voice of the purple one (maybe leaning into Lisa, or Wendy - the guitar one - with a lascivious look in his eyes):

“Against my piece is your thesis any better
Than a catechresis?”

Then later the album would be pulled from Wal-Mart onaccountatha inyooendo.

To reiterate: after all this fulminating against fulminations against Zizek, after all these complaints about avoidance of engagement with individual Theorists, I will be sorry if my piece garners no sharp, critical commentary.

By John Holbo on 10/04/05 at 10:18 PM | Permanent link to this comment

I am printing it off to re-read.  I seem to remember that the word “liberal” turns up frequently, most often in italics. 

I will note for now that many, including me, consider On Belief to be Zizek’s shittiest book, and arguably, given the series it is in, it is directed toward a “popular audience.” The fact that it is book-length does make the drawing up of a canon somewhat more difficult. ("Don’t read his articles, read his books,” works as a general rule of thumb—but if the only book of his that one reads is On Belief, disaster is sure to result.  Yes, this is his own fault for writing a shitty book.  Someone should chime in: “IS NOT On Belief, precisely in its shittiness, the truth of his entire theoretical project?")

A conference paper presented at Villanova by a frequent Valve commenter is available here.  This same commenter has also published a peer-reviewed <a href="http://www.philosophyandscripture.org/Issue2-1/Adam_Kotsko/adam_kotsko.html">paper</a>; on several contemporary philosophical figures, including Zizek.  Since we’re linking to papers.

By Adam Kotsko on 10/04/05 at 10:36 PM | Permanent link to this comment

What happened to my damn comment?!

By Adam Kotsko on 10/04/05 at 10:37 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Somehow the link went all librarian poo. The brackets move around on their own when no one is looking. Maybe the ghost of some comment I deleted long ago. Fixed now.

By John Holbo on 10/04/05 at 10:46 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Whatever faults your comment system has, Haloscan is worse.  I can take it.

If people care about the above-named paper, it’s in the first page of Google search results for my name.

By Adam Kotsko on 10/04/05 at 10:49 PM | Permanent link to this comment

John,

It’s true, I’ve said a number of things about your TE event.  Some being more positive than others.  But in any case, rest assured that your choice for excerpt above doesn’t fail to make me cringe, as it should any honest person.  Also, my speling is horrendous.  This is why I need to invest a decade in a PhD or two, and develop some Balzacian ruthlessness, and some Darwinian genuflection, and stop writing on blogs, so that maybe some day (providing we survive global warming and the upcoming nuclear holocausts) others can eventually be made to spell for me.  Fair enough.  I will re-read as well.  Your medium dog article is certainly more interesting than the little dog blog (though I may fail to see what is precisely to your mind so brontosaurus-like about its tail).
And I will likewise try to contribute meaningfully to what has been said already in several places about your own readings of beloved Z. as based primarily on this, albeit yes, the very shittiest of his self-acknowledged not-really-serious (ahem) books.  I will read it thrice, your article, though I haven’t read the book, or book-pastiche.  But right now I need to sleep. 

At a cursory glance, too quickly, this strikes me as one of the many places where Zizek is perhaps climbing rather indelicately on, yes of all places, Derrida’s back (or more precisely Derrida’s back whilst reading Kierkegaard).  I would probably repeat what I’ve been saying for years now that it seems pretty clear to those concerned how Zizek is generally not the one to trust when it comes to climbing on Derrida (your response to any of my blogposts or available short papers--though unofficially sanctioned and frankly not very worthy as yet--on this theme are of course more than welcome). 

In any case I am not at all convinced that he is making good arguments in this book that you review, so much as gesturing a bit wildly to a number of arguments (many of them made by other people, and some of them quite good) in the service perhaps of appealing to a certain audience (not unlike the one some have occasionally posited as the very conclusive proof itself of the utter worthlessness of the contributions to philosophy of continental Europe and poststructuralism), but a mass audience also in which Zizek may not exactly place his best, most sincere faith, let it be said (imagine that).

I enjoyed the passages dealing with GOD very much.  As a side note, it would probably be negligent not to suggest that far more original readings of Kierkegaard can be found in other thinkers (Agamben and Derrida especially), those whom (or the ideas of whom--reduced to a soundbite) Zizek perhaps a bit too often seems content to merely cite as if every John Holbo reading him would understand where he was coming from and couldn’t possibly refuse giving him the benefit of the doubt.

Your use of _The Gulag Archipelago_ (an essential work, though Anne Applebaum is also good) and for comparison purposes Stalin seems however in places to me unfair and somewhat telling.  I’ll try to say more about this soon.

One question seems to be (if one were to play devil’s advocate against your review, say), how to defend Zizek’s conception of ‘the Act’ as a potentially “teleological suspension of the ethical” or indeed if this phrase is even useful.  Some previous comments on Sean’s Sorel and Derrida posts have touched on this already re:  Benjamin, in addition to the numerous threads on JBHAB.  But how are we to understand this “ethical” exactly; is there a particular sense for this word that Z. wishes to suggest?  And do the ways in which he seems to be referencing, however elliptically, homo sacer deserve to make us pause?  Is there a way to reconcile Zizek’s (Badiou’s) ‘Act’ with Agamben’s abandonement of the Greek hero and the tragic paradigm in ethics (an ethics no longer possible, at least as traditionally understood, after the camps, for a new ethics beyond decency and dignity)? 

Insofar as Zizek is serious, he is liberal.  His point is only serious insofar as it is a liberal point.  That is indeed a clever-sounding turn.  In short:  I pronounce that the end of your essay deserves serious reflection, if for no other reason than it touches on larger issues (also, it is charming, witty, and full to the brim of everyone’s favorite liberal, Lionel Trilling).

For instance, Zizek’s well-known call-to-arms in _The Fragile Absolute_:  “Against the old liberal slander which draws on the parallel between the Christian and Marxist ‘Messianic’ notion of history as the process of the final deliverance of the faithful (the notorious ‘Communist-parties-are-secularized-religious-sects’ theme), should one not emphasize how this holds only for ossified ‘dogmatic’ Marxism, not for its authentic liberating kernel?  Following Alain Badiou’s path-breaking book on Saint Paul, our premiss here is exactly the opposite one:  instead of adopting such a defensive stance, allowing the enemy to define the terrain of the struggle, what one should do is to reverse the strategy by *fully endorsing what one is accused of*:  yes, there *is* a direct lineage from Christianity to Marxism; yes, Christianity and Marxism *should* fight on the same side of the barridcade against the onslaught of new spiritualisms--the authentic Christian legacy is much too precious to by left to the fundamentalist freaks.”

is I think possible to read in at least two directions:  one as a confirmation of Zizek’s essential pessimism as I think Sean alluded to before, in that Zizek has described “civil society” in very negative terms indeed, to wit: 

“In America, after the Oklahoma bombing, they suddenly discovered that there are hundreds of thousands of jerks.  Civil society is not this nice, social movement, but a network of moral majority conservatives and nationalist pressure groups, against abortion, for religious education in schools.  A real pressure from below.” (Lovink 1995)

Zizek’s alleged solution to this problem, insofar as it re-embraces (or once re-embraced?) the State, is perhaps troublesome; but if on the other hand the emphasis is on recognizing the necessity of institutions, and above all *new* institutional formations, then perhaps less so.  Perhaps there is a sense in which his ‘persistent critique,’ such as it is, aspires to be profoundly optimistic (as critique in the service of an ideal).  Just how deep does liberalism’s capacity for self-criticism go?  Does it extend to the word “liberalism” itself?  Anyway, I’ll try to respond more carefully later but for now Scott has insisted that I ask these perhaps “obvious” questions.

Gee Hossefats, now I *really* must sleep.  Please accept my apologies for terrorizing The Valve with a prehistoric tail, and more than this for being at times a cheap and hostile participant.  Hopefully time does indeed breed nuance, as they say, even if the continentals will never ever logically measure up and only by speaking in another language will I ever hope to earn your respect, and then only as a sort of interesting exotic flower on a postcard, pehaps.  Bon nuit.

By Matt on 10/05/05 at 04:40 AM | Permanent link to this comment

If people want to say Sean is wrong to say such negative things about Zizek, perhaps they can hit the ball against the substantive wall of my paper, to better effect

But of course, objecting to Sean’s ‘negative things’ doesn’t entail objecting to your negative things. People were not, I think, objecting to saying negative things about Zizek, but to the things said. There’s little in common between Sean’s ill conceived dismissal and a sustained and detailed reflection on a particular Zizek text. I’ve only glanced at your piece, but it seems to belong to the latter category.

And I’m not sure who the ‘Zizekians’ are that you hope to see gracing the comments. For myself, I’ve enjoyed Zizek primarily as someone who’s translated Lacan and Hegel into a prose I could enjoy and understand. His Sublime Object of Ideology had something of the same revelatory force as Jameson’s Marxism and Form as a work of exposition that was also complicit with what it ‘exposed’. His recent and political writings impress me much less, and I’ve also been critical of his (mis)use of examples and his readings of particular texts (see here: http://charlotte-street.blogspot.com/2005/04/example-of-zizek.html). In short, and it’s an obvious point, I see no need to take up a single position on Zizek, given his work is such a mixed bag. I think it’s also probably true that what many people like about Zizek is his style of thinking, and the peculiar rhetoric that goes with it, without agreeing with his conclusions. I think, also, many recognize, like me, that his use of examples and his reading of particular texts are often cavalier and instrumental, but that one can often appreciate his points regardless of misremembered or misread examples on which they’re based.

By Mark Kaplan on 10/05/05 at 06:48 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Adam: “("Don’t read his articles, read his books,” works as a general rule of thumb—but if the only book of his that one reads is On Belief, disaster is sure to result.  Yes, this is his own fault for writing a shitty book.  Someone should chime in: “IS NOT On Belief, precisely in its shittiness, the truth of his entire theoretical project?")"

I’ll just quote my reply to Adam from the other thread:

“So much of this discussion has been the construction of a list of texts that I’m supposed to ignore when forming an opinion about Zizek’s ideas.  It started with his public essays, proceeded by analogy to encyclopedia articles, and now you’ve added “the confused explanations of (primarily) several grad students who are still learning about his ideas.” It appears that I can trust nothing but certain canonical texts in which Zizek treated his own ideas seriously.”

So, let’s add _On Belief_ to that list.  Adam, is it your contention that in _On Belief_ Zizek somehow misrepresented himself?  Or is it merely that he did not present his theory?  If the latter, can we not judge his theory by its fruits, or is it that (to take the other contention that you brought up) his worthwhile theories are really in areas that are not quite related to the topics of _On Belief_?

By on 10/05/05 at 08:39 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Matt, you write that in _On Belief_, Zizek is “gesturing a bit wildly to a number of arguments”.  OK, perhaps then we shouldn’t take his arguments too seriously, and just look at what he’s gesturing towards. 

You write:
“Zizek’s alleged solution to this problem, insofar as it re-embraces (or once re-embraced?) the State, is perhaps troublesome; but if on the other hand the emphasis is on recognizing the necessity of institutions, and above all *new* institutional formations, then perhaps less so.”

So, you write that it is perhaps troublesome that Zizek advocates a Leninist secret police, and actively defends shooting “good” people who happen to be in the way of the revolution.  I haven’t seen any of Zizek’s extensive readers (John, you can’t write “Zizekian”, it’s a matter of political correctness that some individuals take very seriously indeed) yet say that John has misrepresented Zizek on this point. By “alleged”, are you actually saying that John has got Zizek wrong?

By on 10/05/05 at 09:04 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Rich,

I’m saying his arguments are not presented in their strongest form and that they may be misleading in places.  This is just due to sloppiness on his part; there are reasons for that sloppiness, arguably, but that doesn’t make it any less sloppy.  It’s generally considered good form to assess a thinker qua thinker based on his strongest arguments, or at least taking those into account, but there’s also nothing wrong with judging a book qua book.

Believe me—I’m going to have one brilliant response to all this secret police stuff, once I read the article again.

By Adam Kotsko on 10/05/05 at 09:35 AM | Permanent link to this comment

not <objecting to saying negative things about Zizek, but to the things said.</i>

Quite the contrary, Mark, as you’ll see if you read over the thread.  On most points, there was no disagreement.  To more than a few of my claims, Adam and Jodi consented.  The only disagreement such as it was (from Jodi) was over what seem from my perspective niggling points and which in any case don’t leave any substantial areas of disagreement between us.  (I’m happy for example to accept Jodi’s claim that Zizek does not have a sweeping complaint against foreclosure, but a targetted one, along with her suggestion that Zizek views revolution as an excess that can not be realized.) The only new evidence offered (by Robert) did as much to support my contentions as to challenge them.  The dispute was almost entirely over tone, attitude, and nomenclature.  I committed the sin of using the word “absurd” in relation to Zizek, and that got everyone’s shorts in a knot.

Here’s the way the argument went in good part.  When Adam raised qualifications or objections (about Benjamin and Lenin) to my initial point, I responded, and got not reply.  In response to complaints against my use of the word “theory,” I offered to refer to Zizek’s remarks about revolution by whatever term Adam or anyone else preferred to use.  Again, no response.  Responding to Adam’s request, I also explained once more why I find Zizek’s remarks about Kristallnacht obnoxious, and here too received no reply. Likewise, after pointing me to a one-sentence comment from an interview with Zizek, Robert did not reply when I pointed out the place of that sentence in the longer discussion Zizek provided in the interview. This is not the record of disagreement, but of peevishness.

In fact, I’ll bet you dollars to doughnuts that if some months from now someone posts on Long Sunday a lyrical description of Zizek’s affiliations with Sorel and the misunderstanding as brilliant socialist theorists they both suffer (there are such arguments made about Sorel), many enthusiastic comments will ensue.  Why don’t you try it?

In the meantime, if you think my comments are ill conceived, you might explain why.  For the zillionth time, let me reiterate, I dismiss Zizek from my limited range of attention not for the ideas I discussed.  Although I find them absurd and no mark in his favor, I’ll believe you and Adam if you say they’re no reflection of his profound philosophical depths.  I dismiss him rather simply for acting a fool often.  As Adam himself is frequently forced to acknowledge, Zizek says a lot of stupid stuff--apparently not just in the brief public remarks that Zizek himself claims are important, but in at least one of his book-length works.  Apart from the fact that this is an endlessly elastic defense against criticism, to my mind it is not a strong warrant for taking Zizek seriously.  Why should I not be doubtful about a writer who publishes a book that even a devoted reader regards as shitty?  I personally couldn’t care less whether it’s shittiness represents the truth of Zizek’s theory in general.  I’m just not gonna invest in struggling with a philosopher who publishes reams of material some significant proportion of which admirers admit sucks. 

But even if Zizek were the deepest of thinkers, I’d still think he was a jackass for using Eric Santner as his sock puppet.  I consider that a laughable but also damning abuse of trust.  Good luck to you if you don’t.

By on 10/05/05 at 10:14 AM | Permanent link to this comment

for the record, my post got mangled.  the comment of Mark’s I intended to quote was this:

<objecting to saying negative things about Zizek, but to the things said.</i>

It is completely wrong.

By on 10/05/05 at 10:16 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Eaten again!  For some reason Expression Engine will not let me quote Mark’s remark.  The sentence I refer to is Mark’s claim that my critics objected to the content of my remarks about Zizek rather than to the fact of objection itself.  This is wrong.

By on 10/05/05 at 10:26 AM | Permanent link to this comment

I do think some of us were thrown off by your insistence (at one point) that all thinkers must take a rigid, black-and-white stance toward “foreclosure”—either it’s always bad, or it’s always good—so that objecting to foreclosure at all implies that one always hates foreclosure and any subsequent statement in favor of foreclosure is incoherent.  It struck me as bizarre that “foreclosure,” of all things, would be a concept requiring that kind of rigorous “for me or against me” logic.  I’m glad you’ve backed away from that.

I also think that you tend to conflate various kinds of messianism.  For instance, in that thread, you claimed that the messianic excess “shining through” in every day reality was tantamount to a complete break with previously-existing reality.  I don’t think that’s the case.  I think there are mutant strains of messianism (such as those of Derrida and those of Zizek, who are very similar on this point, much to the latter’s chagrin) that say that something “other” erupts into our every day reality, disturbs it, throws it off the rails for a bit, but never becomes present as such.  That is, to put it in more familiar terms, the Kingdom of God interrupts reality every so often, without ever becoming established. 

In the previous Derrida thread and again here, you seem to group that with modes of thought that expect a literal apocalypse in which everything completely ends and a new world is totally reestablished—then once all messianisms are grouped together, they are labelled as “bad.” Coming from a theological background, I find that to be inadequate. 

(In my Derrida thread, when I made this distinction, you claimed, “Oh, but that’s what I was saying the whole time,” when in reality you weren’t.  I didn’t think it was worth pursuing at the time, since the thread had already reached ridiculous levels, but now the same habit is manifesting itself again.)

By Adam Kotsko on 10/05/05 at 10:41 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Sean, when you write “this is not the record of disagreement, but of peevishness” you aren’t looking at Adam’s point of view on the exchange.  Here it is, from his blog:

“You can ask me all day long for more evidence—you’re not going to get it. Is it because I’m lazy? Yes, absolutely. Blogging is a hobby for me; I’m just as happy to discuss bad car commercials as I am bad interpretations of philosophers, perhaps happier. It’s also because you’re a douchefuck and no matter how much evidence I marshall, you’re not going to be satisfied. Do I disprove myself thereby? Well, apparently in your eyes, I disproved myself the minute I walked in the door. We are always in the wrong before God, and not only before God.”

I would say that malice justified by self-pity is probably a better description than peevishness. Sean, your gaze is apparently like that of a hostile God, before which mortals can only curse “douchefuck” in vain.

I am fully willing to believe (and am not being ironic) that Adam is actually capable of brilliance, should he make the perhaps questionable decision to choose to invest the energy needed for such into a blog comment.  But what was wrong with the responses in that thread was not lack of brilliance.

By on 10/05/05 at 11:05 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Rich,

Leave it to you to miss the complex rhetorical strategies at work in that post (which is, of course, crossed out).

By Adam Kotsko on 10/05/05 at 11:14 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Adam, really this is outrageous. Can you tell me where I made the remarks about foreclosure you refer to?!  (I would quote your comment, but Expression Engine forbids.) Can you show me where someone objected in the terms you now raise?  You’re inventing a disagreement now that didn’t exist at the time. 

Fwiw, my point about foreclosure--which I noted but would have been glad to explain in greater depth had anyone wished to pursue the matter--is simply this: that Zizek’s investment in the unexpected is apparently related to a strong sense that current conditions prevent us not so much from realizing as from conceiving a better world.  I find that theory hackneyed and doubtful, and I think it has unfortunate intellectual consequences.  All of that is arguable, of course.  But no one argued any of these points. 

You are likewise now raising a substantial point about messianism that no one took up in that thread.  How to characterize and evaluate the messianism at issue in fact a matter we could discuss.  I’d defend my account, and maybe you could show me I’m wrong.  But the fact of the matter is that the point you’re making now was not made in the course of the heated dismissals cast my way in that thread. 

Here is what I wrote in my post about Derrida: 

If I’m right to see things this way, Derrida might well have rebuked a naïve kind of apocalypticism, but he couldn’t have maintained his fundamental presuppositions without remaining apocalyptic nevertheless—that is, a philosopher basically oriented toward the revelation of otherworldly truths that are incompatible with and thus destructive to our current reality.

Here is what you said in reply:

insofar as you are arguing in your post that Derrida is hoping for the coming Kingdom or some such, I don’t think he’s that kind of apocalyptic thinker.  (Although—showing my cards!—I do think that some relation to something like an apocalyptic horizon is necessary to any really serious thought.) It’s a kind of immanent apocalypse, happening all the time, causing the world we know to limp along rather than function smoothly—the inherent obstacle that only ever allows us to “get by.” Derrida can couch that kind of thing in overly melodramatic terms at times, I’m sure, but that’s more a stylistic issue than anything.

I do not believe I said that Derrida anticipated the coming kingdom, and so I don’t believe there is any serious incompatibility in our remarks here.  But if you believe it is serious, here is where the disagreement appears to lie.  I say Derrida is apocalytic; you say, yes, but it’s an immanent apocalypticism.  I say Zizek is messianic; you say [now, not having bothered to mention it before], yes, but Zizek’s messianism is a mutant messianism.  In either case, my position, while perhaps worthy of revision, would seem to have at least some degree of accuracy.  Getting things partly right, and then agreeing with your proposed qualifications, is now cast by you as inadequate and a bad habit that you’ve restrained yourself from mentioning earlier. 

The truth in fact is that the very first reply you ever made to me was hostile and dismissive.  At the time, you made a gracious apology.  I didn’t realize till now that you regretted that apology.  Frankly, I don’t get it.

By on 10/05/05 at 11:48 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Adam, perhaps you could explain those rhetorical stragies. I hadn’t realized till taking Rich’s advice to visit your site that you feel free to refer to me as a “douchefuck.”

By on 10/05/05 at 12:09 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Sean,

This comment thread actually exists in an “alternative reality” in which I didn’t take the presented opportunity to engage in a substantive debate in the “All Sorel’s Fault” thread.  I am seizing the moment now in order to redeem those past failures.

Here’s a good comment:
http://www.thevalve.org/go/valve/article/all_sorels_fault/#4311

Jodi, your first paragraph is more hair splitting.  If Zizek opposes some foreclosure, by definition he opposes foreclosure.  It doesn’t matter to me whether or not he opposes it tout court.  The fact is that, as you first said, he defines foreclosure as politicallyt or great significance and therefore is invested in the unexpected, the miraculous, and the rupture.  Everything you’ve added since on this point is quibbling.

I believe your second and third paragraphs are inconsistent.  If the excess will always be betrayed, and thus the revolution never realized, the fact that it is the ultimate desiderata will be irrelevant to the question of “hard work to be done.” If the end of time will never arrive, there’s no reason to be concerned about what will occur with the end of time.  In my usage, ultimate desiderata means the highest good.  Is there something that Zizek sees as preferable to “universal emancipation”? If not, this is more hairsplitting.[endquote]

This is where I’m getting the “all or nothing” approach.  This is also where the discussion broke down, because I don’t see Jodi’s comments leading up to this (interested parties can scroll up approximately a screenful for more detail) as hairsplitting at all.  I see this as an illustration of your using excessively broad strokes—that is, anything “otherworldly” (or anything that can be helpfully conceived as such) seems to disqualify or at least highly problematize a body of work. 

“Apocalyptic is apocalyptic”—I guess, if we’re standing about twenty miles away, yes, that’s the case.  But I’m glad you dug for the Derrida comment for me, because it’s exactly what I’m talking about: You say he’s committed to “otherworldly truths that are incompatible with and thus destructive to our current reality.” But no, they’re de<i>con</i>structive to our current reality—both constitutive and incompatible, not simply “otherworldly.” You’re painting with too broad a brush here.  No, you didn’t say explicitly that Derrida’s praying “Thy kingdom come,” but you act as though what Derrida actually is saying is tantamount to that.  Which it isn’t!  It’s an attempt at a descriptive, <i>materialist</i> account—as is Zizek’s philosophy (though it comes at things from a substantially different angle). 

Benjamin might have believed in a real, actual Messiah coming down in clouds of glory, but neither Zizek nor Derrida does.  It’s a kind of redeployment of religious concepts toward different ends—which is, to a certain extent, “unfaithful” to the original intent of the concepts, admittedly so. 

(Admittedly, my almost instinctive comparisons of Derrida and Zizek may stem from the fact that I’ve read a lot of them and perhaps too little of other things that would help to contextualize more of their differences.)

(From another angle, this article might help on Lenin, too: 

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

It seems to be a version of Zizek’s critical piece in his Lenin anthology.)

So I’m not trying to pick old fights or clarify some kind of procedural issues or figure out why it was that “my side” actually won that fight—I’m trying to address substantive issues that admittedly weren’t adequately addressed at the time.  I was very serious when I said in that thread that you should forget everything I’ve said before.

By Adam Kotsko on 10/05/05 at 12:10 PM | Permanent link to this comment

At the end of the paragraph beginning “Apocalyptic is apocalyptic,” I typed “... a descriptive, materialist account—as is Zizek’s (coming from a different angle).” “Materialist” was italic, which seems to have required that it be arbitrarily murdered by the secret comment police—but they comforted it beforehand, saying it was a good word.

By Adam Kotsko on 10/05/05 at 12:14 PM | Permanent link to this comment

I crossed it off; it was purposely way overblown anyway; I was intending to insult Rich, who was my sparring partner at the time it was written.

I’m talking about real stuff now.  I apologize for the douchefuck comment.  Let’s not get bogged down in meta-discussion.

By Adam Kotsko on 10/05/05 at 12:19 PM | Permanent link to this comment

(Really, Adam’s tone throughout his entire misadvised venture here has if anything been moderate to a fault.  Why must the hair always accuse the combs of doing all the splitting?)

John,

A morning thought:  Might it be useful to re-orient this thread before too much time has passed back to your interesting and worthy review?  It strikes me that one potentially fruitful avenue of discussion might entail a very basic laying out of the perhaps fundamental differences between Zizekians and Trillingians, specifically in their conceptions of the public (and perhaps the alternative and very different ideals to which liberalism and, erm, psychoanalytic marxist hegelo-lacanianism aspire).  Such a discussion could begin simply enough, with a brief overview of the competing conceptions of ‘the subject’, and then move on to differences in philosophies of language itself, etc, but again, staying concise.  I can imagine presenting for our side, though others are certainly more qualified.  It seems silly to jump straight to the apocalypse and Stalin and the Gulags, if not even irresponsible, don’t you think?  Then again, this might be too thick a forest of hairs for such a project.  But we could always pretend to fly above like Jim Carey in some dream, for good-natured argument’s sake.  Just a thought.

By Matt on 10/05/05 at 12:49 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Adam, you accuse me of painting with a broad brush, but the comment you quote simply does not say what you claimed: that “all thinkers must take a rigid, black-and-white stance toward ‘foreclosure’—either it’s always bad, or it’s always good—so that objecting to foreclosure at all implies that one always hates foreclosure and any subsequent statement in favor of foreclosure is incoherent.”

I don’t think you read my comments very carefully.  But in case I expressed myself badly here’s what I was trying to say.  In my view, Jodi’s points are quibbling for these reasons.  Echoing her own comments, I remarked that Zizek is concerned with foreclosure.  She responded by saying: not foreclosure per se.  But since I only paraphrased Jodi’s own remarks and never said Zizek opposed foreclosure per se, this did not seem to me a serious disagreement.  In effect, Jodi pointed out that something I didn’t say wasn’t true.  That is not a major disagreement.

Something similar is true of the comments about the revolution as “ultimate desiderata.” If I understood her correctly, Jodi said that Zizek does not conceive of “universal emancipation” ever arriving and so does not anticipate an end of history. “Acts” will happen apparently, but “the revolution” as Zizek described it in his LRB essay won’t.  Fine.  If that is true, it would not change my point, which is that “universal emancipation” is the highest good for Zizek and is as such incompatible with the world we live in. 

About Derrida, I write that he is oriented “toward the revelation of otherworldly truths that are incompatible with and thus destructive to our current reality.” You say, no, that’s all wrong.  The truths in question are “deconstructive” to our current reality.  They cause our world to “to limp along rather than function smoothly” and are in this respect “inherent obstacle[s]” to its functioning.  Fine.  The issue here in part seems to be just how tall the obstacles in question are.  I believe Derrida’s own rhetoric varies on this point.  You apparently believe the same, noting that he can be “overly melodramatic at times.” Apparently there is an interpetive question created in part by Derrida’s own writing, as there is by Zizek’s.  So tell me, if the difference between us is in part a matter of emphasis, and Derrida’s own emphasis (along with Zizek’s, judging by your comments dismissing his public writing) varies considerably, why it is my position warrants contempt.

I agree with you that both Zizek and Benjamin practice the redeployment of religious rhetoric, and, yes, as you’ve noted, I am opposed to that--politically even more than intellectually.  But, let’s note, there are two questions here: 1) Is there a redeployment of religious rhetoric?  2) Is that a good or bad thing? 

The obvious place for us to differ would be to agree that the answer to question 1 is at least in part “yes” and to agree to disagree about question 2.  But that is not what occured in this past conversation. Instead, much fire was expended at the mere raising of question 1.

By on 10/05/05 at 12:51 PM | Permanent link to this comment

I agree with Matt insofar as I think that this thread should get back to John’s essay.  Remarks on “All Sorel’s Fault” can go there.  Matt, I am still interested in your answer to my questions to you, which I will requote:

“So, you write that it is perhaps troublesome that Zizek advocates a Leninist secret police, and actively defends shooting “good” people who happen to be in the way of the revolution.  I haven’t seen any of Zizek’s extensive readers yet say that John has misrepresented Zizek on this point. By “alleged”, are you actually saying that John has got Zizek wrong? “

You write that “It seems silly to jump straight to [...] Stalin and the Gulags, if not even irresponsible, don’t you think?” I don’t think that it’s silly if that is what Zizek’s book is actually about.  If Zizek’s conception of the public does lead directly to considerations involving Stalin and the Gulags, isn’t that a relevant issue?

By on 10/05/05 at 01:02 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Sean, The objection to appropriating religious language has been an unstated (though obvious) assumption of your arguments on these matters, then.  It’s perfectly reasonable for you to think it’s politically and intellectually dangerous to do so; I just disagree.  I also think it causes you to gloss over distinctions, but that’s understandable if you think that the whole enterprise of redirecting religious language is faulty.  So that’s out on the table, then.

Rich, Matt is not foreclosing the possibility that Zizek’s ideas lead directly to the Gulag (unless Zizek is openly calling for Gulag, which he’s not)—but I agree with Matt, upon rereading John’s essay, that John makes a less-than-fully-warranted jump to that conclusion and that more investigation, even within the execrable On Belief itself (notwithstanding further digging in the Awesomely Irrefutable Canonical Works, whatever those may turn out to be), is necessary. 

In fact, precisely that leap was going to be my objection—and the fact that John, an intelligent reader to be sure, makes that leap seems to me to illustrate a broader Zizekian contention, which is that Actually Existing Liberalism has hardened into a kind of orthodoxy, where certain lines of inquiry and political options are cut off precisely through this instinctive declaration “But don’t you realize, man—that leads directly to the Gulag?!”

So I would also say that finding that Zizek is liberal in some broad sense of the word does not undermine his project, because he’s anti- a very particular form of liberal orthodoxy (in fact, that best represented by the faux-leftist academics that are often a target of scorn on this very website!), not anti-liberal in the sense that anything that can reasonably be called liberal is for that very reason deemed evil. 

I guess, in essence, that is my critique of John’s argument, though I do plan to reread the paper again.

By Adam Kotsko on 10/05/05 at 01:15 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Adam, I agree that we are reaching what I consider to be a large part of the worth or otherwise of John’s essay.  It’s what a large chunk of the essay is about (excluding issues like “does Zizek really understand Kierkegaard"), so discussing Zizek’s conception of the public makes little sense with regard to the essay itself unless it bears on that topic.

In that connection, you write “that leap seems to me to illustrate a broader Zizekian contention, which is that Actually Existing Liberalism has hardened into a kind of orthodoxy, where certain lines of inquiry and political options are cut off precisely through this instinctive declaration “But don’t you realize, man—that leads directly to the Gulag?!”” But of course John did not assert that Zizek’s ideas would lead directly to the Gulag.  He asserted that Zizek supported secret police and the execution of good but inconvenient human obstacles to the revolution.  Do you think that John is wrong in writing this or not?  If he is not, do you think that John is cutting off following Zizek’s line of thought through an “instinctive” “orthodoxy”, or through a well-reasoned and historically informed objection to secret police and revolutionary executions?

By on 10/05/05 at 01:33 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Rich,

I will say, unequivocally, that Zizek does not support a return to Soviet-style communism, including secret police and arbitrary execution.  He is involved in a rhetorical style of “provocation,” which I think is tricky to pull off and which probably ends up failing pretty badly in this particular book and in other places.  The key point behind his “provocation” is that liberals do not want to do what is necessary to hold power. 

He agrees with virtually every “liberal” position (multiculturalism, etc.).  He in fact worked as part of the propaganda effort in the liberal government of Slovenia.  But his own experience in Slovenia and the former Yugoslavia more generally showed him what a powerful force nationalism is and how more “tolerance” and “fairness” doesn’t quite cut it in terms of dealing with that.  So he’s saying—in a clumsy, crappy kind of way for which I make no excuses—“Do you really believe this stuff?  I mean, really?  Because what you’re doing isn’t helping.”

The fact that he uses the Clinton health care plan as an “event” is kind of a give-away in this sense.  In The Ticklish Subject (which is a much better book than On Belief—perhaps his magnum opus), he refers to the legalization of divorce in Italy as a miracle.  So the rhetorical gambit is that on one side, he’s just talking about common sense kind of stuff that we all know would make the world better, but on the other hand, there seem to be insurmountable obstacles to doing it.  So he takes the risk of invoking the revolutionary tradition, or later, religious language, in order to inject some passion. 

There are certainly really good reasons to object to that strategy, but “it leads straight to the Gulags” is not one of them.  I’m pretty sure that he thinks a return to Stalinism is impossible, and I’m pretty sure he’s right about that—just like I’m pretty sure that a repeat of the Holocaust is, realistically, at the very bottom of our list of worries.  Not because it wouldn’t be horrible if it happened again, but because—come on.  It’s just not. 

Again, I need to re-read On Belief again to detail exactly the ways in which Zizek’s rhetorical gambit fails here, but that’s what I think he’s driving at in the book, and I think that’s at least detectable, even though the book totally sucks ass.

By Adam Kotsko on 10/05/05 at 02:07 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Adam: “I will say, unequivocally, that Zizek does not support a return to Soviet-style communism, including secret police and arbitrary execution.”

Interesting, but you are adding to the claim.  No one said that Zizek supported a return to Soviet-style communism; that would be apparent even from reading his LRB articles.  Instead, he appears to want something new—which still, however, requires secret police and arbitrary execution.

Adam: “The key point behind his “provocation” is that liberals do not want to do what is necessary to hold power.”

Very, very odd.  I remember that you once explained that neo-liberalism basically covered the globe, and that American conservatives, American liberals, European social democrats, etc. could all be considered to be parts of the neo-liberal order.  Is this the meaning of “liberal” intended when Zizek refers to the liberals who do not want to do what is necessary to hold power?  Or is there some other meaning, more close to US-liberalism?  If that is the case, please explain how the provocation works—presumably, I am to read Zizek and think “You know, if I really believed that it was important to secure rights for all people, I should be willing to support secret police and arbitrary executions to secure them.  Since I should be willing to support that (?), then certainly I should consider any lesser means.  Certainly I (?) should be willing to get tough on those incorrigible nationalists.” Is that it?

By the way, the description of this as the
“risk of invoking the revolutionary tradition, or later, religious language, in order to inject some passion” doesn’t seem quite complete.  So when Zizek does this, it’s just sort of an Eastern European version (for Zizek is the Other) of Jesse Jackson’s “Keep hope alive!” ?

By on 10/05/05 at 02:25 PM | Permanent link to this comment

It seems to me that Adam’s got a point (perhaps refining one that was made before on JABHAB, as I seem to recall).  As for Sean, one would almost get the impression that he somehow believes himself to be the very first to accuse <a href="">Derrida</a>, or for that matter anyone, of being an apocalyptic thinker(!), let alone in a context where everything continental is a priori accepted as being somehow contaminated and infected by the worst.  Which is a little odd, as I seem to recall someone (either Sean or the Rich) as alluding at one point in comments to this post the very complex historical conditions that actually once forced many an intelligent person (and especially in France) to choose between three--at the time, arguably equally terrible options--many of whom (Blanchot, for example) subsequently changed their opinion or alignment more ethan once.  As for the competing conceptions of the public, the subject, language and the ideal not being at all relevant, I can only repeat that they seem to me quite relevant given the context and scope of John’s final claims in this review.  John, meanwhile, having thus insulted and asked for my opinion in one breath, unfortunately seems to be sleeping yet again?  I’ll kindly wait to hear if he is even interested before clogging the comments (and adding to The Valve’s traffic value) any further.

By Matt on 10/05/05 at 02:45 PM | Permanent link to this comment

(This is Zizek’s own stupid fault, but--) I think you’re putting too much emphasis on secret police and arbitrary execution *in specific.* I also think that (again, although Zizek wrote a shitty book and was much too sloppy) you, largely following John, are making a mistake by taking him literally at this point. 

By “liberalism” here, I am thinking of US-style liberalism in the sense excoriated by Rush Limbaugh, and I think that’s what Zizek’s thinking—particularly the “campus radical” stuff, since he’s writing as an academic and (usually) to an academic audience (though sadly not always).  He’s saying: Those campus radicals want a revolution, but they don’t want the messiness that goes along with it, the dirty tactics (of which arbitrary execution would be an extreme example).  So he says: “You don’t want revolution at all.  In fact, you don’t want power at all.  You want to sit back and jerk off to thoughts of how great revolution would be, and let the conservatives run rampant so you can bitch about it and show your moral superiority.” I don’t think that this is an especially unusual critique of academic leftists, nor is it *entirely* unfair.

So I reiterate that I think it’s a mistake to think that Zizek is anti-liberal as such, so that if he turns out to be liberal in some way, it ends up disproving him; and to jump to the conclusion that he’s advocating a literal reign of terror.

By Adam Kotsko on 10/05/05 at 02:45 PM | Permanent link to this comment

These comments remind me why I don’t care for writers like Zizek.  I want to be reasoned with, not provoked or put on.  I usually don’t like to insult, but it does seem to be a rather adolescent rhetorical strategy to get the liberals all worked up about whether you are really advocating secret police and revolutionary executions and such.  Epater les liberaux.

By on 10/05/05 at 03:16 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Adam: “By “liberalism” here, I am thinking of US-style liberalism in the sense excoriated by Rush Limbaugh, and I think that’s what Zizek’s thinking—particularly the “campus radical” stuff, since he’s writing as an academic and (usually) to an academic audience (though sadly not always).”

I think that there is very significant problem right at this juncture (perhaps exemplified by taking Rush Limbaugh as definitional).  There is a very large difference between leftism and US-liberalism.  Even though Rush thinks they’re the same, they really aren’t.

Most specifically, I would say that very few liberals “want a revolution”.  That’s part of the supposed way in which “Actually Existing Liberalism has hardened into a kind of orthodoxy, where certain lines of inquiry and political options are cut off precisely through this instinctive declaration “But don’t you realize, man—that leads directly to the Gulag?!”” The liberal tends to think, whether through instinctive orthodoxy or through reason and historical knowledge, that it is in fact not possible to achieve liberal goals through a revolution.  The same with social democrats vs. most socialists.

However, this does not mean that liberals don’t want power at all.  Of course liberals want power.  The fact that they see certain actions as counterproductive towards actually getting and keeping power doesn’t mean that they don’t want it. 

So I find it unlikely that Zizek writes this kind of thing merely to attack a few, to be honest, mostly irrelevant academic leftists.  If so, then Zizek is himself irrelevant, unless he has something else unrelated going on.

Now, you are the Zizek expert, but I have to say that I suspect that Zizek is not really attacking leftism and leaving liberalism untouched.  The focus of the “provocation” seems much more in keeping with the classic leftist attacks on liberal gradualism and reformism.  I also suspect that this elision of the difference between leftism and liberalism is part of an attempt at “no enemies to the left”—with that boring old historical knowledge / instinctive orthodoxy I remember how well that worked out.  Of course, I have not read the canonical Zizek works etc etc.

I agree that if John has taken Zizek literally when Zizek was only trying to sound like a mad, bad Other, that this may be a problem for John’s essay.  I think it’s best to allow John to comment at this point (Matt, he’s in Singapore—time zones, remember?)

By on 10/05/05 at 03:37 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Rich, thank you for alerting me to the existence of time zones.  When he wakes, would John kindly please fix the first link in my last comment above, which could I suppose just as welll be supplemented with either this one or this one.  Ta.

By Matt on 10/05/05 at 04:38 PM | Permanent link to this comment

A quibbling point: I’m not entirely sure I agree with Adam that Zizek’s focus is on US-style liberalism, as much as it actually exists in the US.  I did not read much Zizek until I was living in Glasgow, so perhaps that colors my judgment here, but when I read ‘liberal’ in his works I find him describing European-style liberalism.

Furthermore, in my reading, Zizek does seem to criticize both classic Leftists and Third Way liberals.  His critique, much in line with his philosophical history, is akin to that of Kant’s critiques—namely, he does not think that either truly know why (or if) they believe what they do?  What frustrates me from time to time, I suppose, is that he often takes for granted that conservatives don’t either—preferring, instead, to give them a back-handed applause across the cheek.  Realistically, I think the European-liberalism / Leftism he is describing is losing its rhetorical voice & presence, and Zizek threatens to be playing the clown prince. 

This comment may sound more critical of Zizek than I intend.  It is, however, a product of my appreciation for his philosophical contributions, esp. in terms of his rehabilitative reading of Hegel.  One of the reasons I’ve stayed out of these debates is that I think the jury is still out on the political viability of his thinking—which may be related to the increased interest in his work by students of religion.  (Obviously, one like Jodi D. focuses on the political import of Zizek, and thus may disagree w/ my agnosticism on the subject.  From what I’ve seen, at its best her work is not simply a commentary on his work as it exists, but teasing out her own original thoughts from it.  This may breach philosophical protocol, but it’s damn fine work all the same.)

By on 10/05/05 at 04:44 PM | Permanent link to this comment

I have an extended reaction to this post, the Farrell piece, and other posts at The Valve at my website.

Short form: if Valvesters don’t write the kind of stuff of I like, doesn’t Tribble have a point?  Why shouldn’t I write with false humility, pretending to care whether “the Valvesters” “provide extra ammunition for people who are looking for a reason to eliminate candidates”?

edited to reflect actual content - the management

By John Bruce on 10/05/05 at 05:32 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Mr. Bruce, if you insist on attacking Valve contributors for tiny grammatical errors, the very least you could do is have the decency to do so in grammatically pristine prose.  Or do you really mean that you have other posts here, at the Valve, at your site?  [Edited because there was no chance Bruce would’ve got the joke.]

By Scott Eric Kaufman on 10/05/05 at 05:53 PM | Permanent link to this comment

After reading the faulty parallelism in Mr. Bruce’s comment, I simply cannot take anything he says seriously.

By on 10/05/05 at 06:04 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Matt, I never claimed to be the first to note the apocalypticism or messianism in Derrida or anyone else.  Your links merely confirm my point, which is that the claims I’ve made are less objectionable than the fact that in making them I have not shown the piety you, Adam, and others deem proper.  This licenses apparently whatever nastiness you guys feel like dispensing and then half-heartedly apologizing for.  In the Sorel thread and at his own blog, Adam condemned the internet and wished on it its own apocalypse. Dealing with you all has just about convinced me he’s right.

By on 10/05/05 at 06:22 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Sean, At last, you’re convinced!  Victory is mine!

By Adam Kotsko on 10/05/05 at 06:37 PM | Permanent link to this comment

That’s cool, Sean; I never claimed you claimed (to be the first).  Just a momentary relapse into impressionsandinnuendo.  That said, your claims about Derrida’s apocalypticism are certainly still all wrong, as those articles and many others do not fail to indicate.  If daring to point this out is piety, then what on earth would you call complete silence (and thus the inevitable assumption of agreement)--with your particular blogtake?

By Matt on 10/05/05 at 07:09 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Where exactly does Zizek say he wants people shot? Does he say in what circumstances? Are you saying that he’s saying that ‘come the revolution’ all liberals will be shot??

By Hvala Pivo on 10/05/05 at 08:14 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Hvala Pivo, no one has claimed that Zizek has issued a “shoot all liberals” order.  We are primarily referring to the following, from John’s essay:

“We may gather preliminary inklings from a Brecht poem, “The Interrogation of the Good,” freshly
translated by Zizek to emblematize his position. The poem narrates the fate of a “good man,” for he cannot be bought, is honest, speaks his mind, is brave, and does not seek his own advantage. Unfortunately, he is (one infers) some sort of liberal democrat, hence a hindrance to some or other revolution. Hence: “You are our enemy. This is why we shall / Now put you in front of a wall. But in consideration / of your merits and good qualities / We shall put you in front of a good wall and shoot you / With a good bullet from a good gun and bury you / With a good shovel in the good earth” (pp. 150–51).”

Now, if John is wrong and this poem does not really emblematize Zizek’s position, or if John has misinterpreted the Brecht poem, then there is no rhetorical call for shooting.  (No one thinks that Zizek is serious enough to suggest real shooting in any case, the only question is whether rhetorical shooting is called for.) Adam has called for this poem’s dismissal by means of the so-often-seen Theorist’s “I was only joking” excuse ("I was only provoking” in this case).

By on 10/05/05 at 08:31 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Maybe it is on par w/ Chris Rock’s bit in ‘Bring the Pain’, where he says, ‘I’m not saying O.J. should’ve killed his wife. <pause> But I understand.’

By on 10/05/05 at 08:38 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Hvala, it wouldn’t be fair to say that Zizek comes out and says, in so many words, ‘ALL liberals must be shot’. But he does say that violent action is necessary to overthrow ‘the liberal-capitalist world order’ - real bullets, not paper - and the only targets he suggests are ‘good’ liberals. I think he takes it to be OBVIOUS that the bankers will have to be shot. The issue is whether left-liberals who may have entangled themselves in Clintonian-Blairite ‘third way’ compromises are ALSO to go to the wall. The answer is not ‘yes’ but ‘we should be prepared to say yes’.

He also says he is very opposed to compromisers and Beautiful Souls who want to keep their hands clean. And he is opposed to those who just make grand gestures about the need for revolution without doing anything about it. (I think it is quite likely that this grand gesture against grand gestures is just a grand gesture. But make of it what you will.)

If you want, you can read the first three pages online at Amazon. Do ‘search inside’ - ‘Larry King’ - because those are the first two words of the Introduction. That should go some distance towards verification that my gloss is fair.

What Zizek says about the Brecht poem, i.e. its advocacy of extrajudicial killing of the good liberal, is this: “far from cancelling ethics such a suspension is the sine qua non of an authentic unconditional ethical engagement - nowhere is the inherent nullity of the ethics bereft of this suspension clearer than in today’s proliferation of the “ethical committees” trying in vain to constrain scientific progress into the straight-jacket of “norms” (how far should we go in biogenetics, etc.). And what is the Christian notion of being ‘reborn in faith’ if not the first full-fledged formulation of such an unconditional subjective engagement on account of which we are ready to suspend the very ethical substance of our being” (p. 151). Those are the final words of the book.

By John Holbo on 10/05/05 at 11:18 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Really?  Bankers going to have to be shot?  Not just a provocation to encourage academic leftists to get off the chat line and on to the picket line?

Well, you know, I sort of suspected that some of Zizek’s extensive readers might be predisposed to think that he’s only provoking.  Is there any way to really settle the question one way or the other?  The problem with the “I’m only joking” bit in all of its varients is that it’s unfalsifiable.  When you can say “I’m only joking” at any time, and indeed cancel a previous “I’m only joking” by saying that you were only joking when you said it, the words of any particular thinker become a kind of theme song, suggestive but not really determinative of anything in particular.

As I see it there are a few paths from here for Zizek’s extensive readers.  “Holbo is wrong” appears the most promising, closely supported by “Holbo hasn’t read enough Zizek to know when he’s only provoking”.  But does anyone want to go for a defense of really shooting bankers?  Or of theoretical brilliance that merely coexists with a bit of banker-blowing-away-bloviation?  How about the old standard, “Zizek miswrote himself”?

By on 10/05/05 at 11:49 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Adam makes the point upstream that “On Belief” is Zizek’s worst book, possibly his worst writing, and that - although it is fair to critique such a book - more profit is to be had by looking for worthier targets. This is what we might call Morrissey’s Law: “take the best of their days, against the worst of your days - you won’t win.”

There is something to this, and, for the record, at the time I wrote the article this was indeed all the Zizek I had studied, except for short journo bits and dribs and drabs I absorbed during the writing process. I picked the book up because of my interest in Kierkegaard and the provocation of the very notion of Kierkegaardian-Leninism, not because I had an antecedent interest in Zizek. I got interested in Zizek through the badness of this book.

But is this a wise way to acquire interests?

This is in fact a specification of a complaint we have gotten numerous times about the whole Theory business: namely, there is always bad stuff to be targetted, but the obsessive focus on the bad stuff is really rather pointless. It declines into a juvenile sort of gotcha! journalism.

Well, yes, but - Morrissey right back atcha - that’s no reason to judge focusing on the bad by its worst exponents. The point of focusing on the bad - i.e. a diffuse Theory culture in the humanities - is that diffuse badness is GOOD to dispel, or at the very least to understand. For example, if there are a few genius Theorists and then a dramatic fall-off into a sea of abject epigones, rather than a dignified descent into a crowd of thoughtful thinkers doing respectably second-tier work, then inquiring minds want to know that this is happening, how and why it is happening.

Also, I believe it is significant that ‘star’ [shudder] Theorists like Zizek and Judith Butler also tend to suffer, to some degree, from the problem that afflicts the culture, as it were. And by this I mean, rather specifically: they suffer from the Higher Eclecticism. That is, they write kitsch (in a quite specific sense; this isn’t just an abusive broadside against them.)

Zizek’s best books have serious problems, in my opinion. (I have made a serious enough study of them now that I can say that, though you don’t need to believe me until I show it, obviously.) The patent badness of his worst book is actually useful as a guide to the deep faults of his best books. The faults are the same, merely writ large in the bad. Anyway, that’s what I say.

Finally, in case it isn’t obvious why I think it is worth obsessing about Theory even though most observers pronounce it dead or dying, in an instutitional sense: what they take to be signs of moribundity - the Higher Eclecticism, more or less - I take to be merely the latest incarnation. At any rate, I don’t like it and it’s very much alive. If you prefer to think of me as a raging enemy of post-Theory, that’s fine. I’m not terribly particular about terms, so long as we are clear what we are talking about.

Example: I’m not raging against Derridean dominance - not trying to reform literary studies, circa 1985, now that it’s 2005. I’m bothered by a specific and highly contemporary phenomenon: the Higher Eclecticism. There’s more around that, but that’s the core complaint. (Perhaps I have not been clear about that. If so, perhaps the reason is that I wasn’t clear myself. In any case, I hope I am clear now.)

I’m working on a follow up to the Zizek which will function as an entryway into a kind of schematic diagram of the history of Theory I’ve been working up for some time. I hope to satisfy those who feel I have been unspecific.

By John Holbo on 10/05/05 at 11:51 PM | Permanent link to this comment

I should emphasize - regarding Rich’s comment above - that he doesn’t SAY all bankers should be shot. But, on the assumption that he is indeed making a practical proposal - which Zizek is very insistent his is - I fail to see what else he could be IMPLYING. (If we have gotten to the point of considering shooting those who simply weren’t consistently AGAINST the bankers, what are we supposed to imagine has happened to the bankers?)

I should also say that I don’t believe Zizek is serious. So the real problem is not that he is a threat to the financial sector but that he is engaging in revolutionary posturing against revolutionary posturing, which is just tedious. (No one who writes a book about cyberspace, shit, Leibniz, Larry King, Lacan, monads and the Matrix, wants to shoot bankers. I think that’s some sort of axiom. What such people want is to write MORE books about cyberspace, etc.)

By John Holbo on 10/06/05 at 12:01 AM | Permanent link to this comment

john -

sorry to be slow, but could you give us just the briefest definition of yr “Higher Eclecticism” again… I’ve forgotten it is…

By CR on 10/06/05 at 12:12 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Please unsubscribe me from this comment thread.

By on 10/06/05 at 12:28 AM | Permanent link to this comment

OK - did my own research (for once!) - and I guess it’s the wheeze in Valentine’s bit:

<i>How this wheeze was pulled off, how you can have the political and the personal subjects of literature – representations of selfhood and class and genre and race: the outside-concerns, the outward look of writing, the descriptive and documentary, the reformist intentions and the ideological instrumentality of writing – envisioned and envisionable as absolutely part and parcel of the often quite opposite and contradictory functions of writing – the merely formal, or the technically linguistic, or (as often) a deeply inward, world-denying, aporetic writing activity – rather defies ordinary logic. Foundationalism and anti-foundationalism, shall we say roughly the Marxist reading on the one hand, and the deconstructionist on the other, make awkward bed-partners, you might think. But Theory deftly marries them off, or at least has them more or less cheerfully all registered as guests in the same hotel room</i>

And if it is, I’m afraid to say, the wheeze was wheezed first by literature itself, long before theory came on the scene… Brings form to content, content to form, foundation to anti-foundation, structure to world, world to structure… Right?

It’s a lot less than baffling why lit studies is the petri dish in which the theory bug grew. Theory, eclectic theory, does what we’ve - and those that we study - have always done.

John - here’s the thing. You’ve probably read more theory than I have. I’ll bet it’s true. But you come to the critique of lit studies from the same, backassward direction that obnoxious grad students come to lit seminars: from theory to literature (and sometimes don’t even make it all the way to literature...)

(and the problem in the grad student’s case isn’t with the theory itself - it’s with the sense that precocious study of it can bring that it somehow supplants literature rather than continues it… That it has by default more access to “truth” than the novels and poems… Rather than simply access to a similar kind of truth…

In other words, I’m not confident that you really get literary studies, what it’s about. You are a philosopher. A theorist even. But the critique of literary studies falls flat because even without Butler and Jameson and Derrida and Foucault, lit studies would still be eclectic.

Or maybe the Cunningham “wheeze” isn’t what you meant at all… Sure sounded like it in the earlier post… But perhaps you should clarify if you need to…

By CR on 10/06/05 at 12:38 AM | Permanent link to this comment

The Cunningham wheeze will do for a start, CR. That’s the Higher Eclecticism, alright. I understand the charge of backasswardness. It comes to this: there is a sort of ‘up-from-amateurism!’ storyline to the rise of Theory. (Read Eagleton for the canonical version of this story. The primal scene is Leavis vs. Quiller-Couch. Leavis and his scrutineers overcome the genteel amateur mode of ‘isn’t it nice?’ appreciative criticism.) The problem with objecting that Theory turns out an eclectic mess and then concluding we should turn the clock back and return to Q’s genteel ways, is that (ironically) why should Theory eclecticism be any WORSE, qua eclecticism, than the stuff that came before? Eclectic then, eclectic now, always already. Why get hot and bothered about the good old days? Well, I think there is an answer to this. If I have understood your complaint. I’ll give my response in my follow-up.

By John Holbo on 10/06/05 at 12:52 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Yes - you’ve understood my complaint, more or less…

By CR on 10/06/05 at 12:58 AM | Permanent link to this comment

John: “I should also say that I don’t believe Zizek is serious. So the real problem is not that he is a threat to the financial sector but that he is engaging in revolutionary posturing against revolutionary posturing, which is just tedious.”

But Adam propounded a theory by which revolutionary posturing against revolutionary posturing served a specific purpose, beyond the support of books on monads and The Matrix etc.  As best as I could tell, it went something like this (quotes from Adam):

Zizek (approaches academic leftist): You say you want a revolution, but you don’t want “the messiness that goes along with it, the dirty tactics”.  In fact, “you don’t want power at all.”

Academic leftist: You’re right!  I think I’ll get serious about some “common sense kind of stuff that we all know would make the world better”.

I have to say that I don’t really understand how this was supposed to actually work.  I suppose that I can picture a sort of train of thought: Hmm… if I were serious about my radical leftism, I’d want to shoot bankers ... but I have no real desire to shoot bankers ... I should do something other than just complain ... and barriers to action appear less insuperable now that I’ve been encouraged with revolutionary and religious language ... I guess I’ll get serious about supporting Clinton’s health plan.  But that starts to be less merely tedious and more wildly implausible, dare I say it, absurd.

By on 10/06/05 at 01:05 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Isn’t it reasonable to supppose that in a socialist revolution (however remote that possiblity might now seem, and heaven knows it is utterly remote) that people will be shot? But I don’t think Zizek is saying that liberals will be shot as liberals. He’s saying that, inevitably, people will be shot. This is hardly news. In the extract you drew my attention to, I think Zizek’s position is unclear, and depends on how you interpret the ‘materialist version’ of the Baptist’s position. But anyway, as I’m curious, I’m going to buy the book today. So you’ll be glad to know that your article has sold at least one copy of On Belief

By on 10/06/05 at 07:33 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Could you also just say a little about how the Brecht poem is “nothing but rational self-justification”? Do you mean that Brecht intends it as a poem showing such self-justication or that, despite whatever Brecht meant, it is a clear case of self-justification?

By on 10/06/05 at 07:44 AM | Permanent link to this comment

You know, I was trying to figure out how to judge whether Zizek’s banker-bloviation was revolutionary posturing against revolutionary posturing designed to encourage people to be more radical (i.e. ‘stop wanking, start shooting’ designed to actually encourage people to shoot, if anyone took it seriously), or of being as Adam says revolutionary posturing designed to stop people from revolutionary posturing (i.e. ‘stop wanking, start shooting’ designed to get people to work towards the “common sense kind of stuff that we all know would make the world better” in a more committed and encouraged way).  It’s a question of reader response, right?  I find the chain of suggested reader response to be absurdly implausible, but I’m not in the target audience.  Then it struck me, we have a test case in the house.

CR, would you like to contribute?  You, from what you’ve written here previously, appear to be exactly the kind of ineffectual academic radical that Adam said is Zizek’s target.  From your previous self-descriptions:

“That said, yes, I do very much consider myself to be - hope myself to be - someone who works toward the establishment of socialism. Am I on the barricades? No… for better or worse.”

and

“I don’t preach ever in the classroom but of course I hope that what I teach them makes them better people, that is to say leftier.

All in all, I feel utterly politically ineffective. Nearly utterly useless. “

and

“Do I believe it’s the ultimate and only form of socialist practice? Of course not. Is it the form that desire and circumstance have collaborated together to make my own? Yes. Do I worry about the effectiveness of my work, about how to make my work as a writer and teacher most effective? Almost every second of the day…”

So, CR, you can help with this line of inquiry.  Do you feel inspired by Zizek?  Does his injunction to get serious and shoot a banker provoke you to realize the truth of your ineffectuality and lack of desire for actual power and motivate you to the barricades (there not to shoot ... but to sign petitions, perhaps)?  Please, answer seriously.

By on 10/06/05 at 08:24 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Sorry - haven’t read the book. Can’t say. Unlike you, I don’t make my decisions second hand…

you keep bringing those quotes back again and again as if I should be ashamed of them. I’m not… I’m sure in yr goddamned data-mining biz you feel just so plugged in to the tapline of progress, so up there on the (virtual, viridian) barricades that these sort of issues never present themselves… But teaching is a difficult job if you take is seriously…

By CR on 10/06/05 at 09:52 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Rich,

You sure are one smug son of a bitch aren’t you?  Do tell me, what are your commitments?

By on 10/06/05 at 10:19 AM | Permanent link to this comment

What kind of commitments, APS?  And really, why should what I do have any bearing on the worth or otherwise of what CR does?  It’s his combination of rude holier-than-thou claims of radical commitment (as in his claim that the Valve had “no politics") coupled with his repeated advertisements of lack of actual political involvement other than attempts to inculcate socialism among his students that I find annoying, as well as his repeated statements of helplessness when he enjoys so many societal advantages over those who really do have call to complain about helplessness.

But, let’s see, commitments.  I suppose that philosophically I’m a Rawlsian.  In terms of the figures who appear in relation to literary studies, I most admire the group that has been derisively named the “left conservatives”—Chomsky, Sokal, etc.  In terms of politics, a liberal Democrat, though obviously I’m very sympathetic to certain forms of leftism, especially anarcho-socialism, which I disagree with in terms of method more than in goal.  In terms of praxis, I’ve worked on union campaigns, fair housing initiatives, for DC-based nonprofits, and with grassroots environmental groups, getting my start with CHEJ back after they had left Love Canal but before their name had changed from Citizen’s Clearinghouse for Hazardous Waste.  Currently I provide data to people: activists who need to find out who the polluters are in their community, responders to Hurricane Katrina who need to know where the toxic chemical dumps are under the water, professors studying which multinationals have the worst pollution records and why.  In cooperation with others, my work helps to save lives, and I have no doubt that CR—since he is obviously educated, smart, possibly tenured, and “on the right side”—could help to save lives too, if he wanted to.

By on 10/06/05 at 11:07 AM | Permanent link to this comment

A Rawlsian eh?  Well, at least you do some shit. 

As to CR’s rude holier-than-thou comments, well, in the Christian tradition there is this little story about a plank in one’s eye.  Do you know it?  If not you should look into it, it’s highly edifying to secular and other religious folks as well.  (Just in case you can’t tell, I’m saying you are at least as big of an asshole as CR, though I’m sure you don’t see it that way.)

By on 10/06/05 at 11:26 AM | Permanent link to this comment

APS, one big difference is that I don’t trawl the blogs where CR likes to write.  After all, I could go to them and populate the comment sections with continual disagreements—I know what I’m going to find there, right?  I have never gone to Long Sunday or any of the associated blogs unless, as with Adam, the owner said something about how I really should be responding there. 

Not that there’s anything wrong with reasonably polite and rational, or at least amusing, disagreement—I think that Jodi, Michael B., John McG., Luther B., and a large number of other people who like various aspects of “Theory” add a lot when they choose to comment here—but going to a blog just to write things like CR’s metaphor (just the most recent example) “You’ve probably read more theory than I have. I’ll bet it’s true. But you come to the critique of lit studies from the same, backassward direction that obnoxious grad students come to lit seminars: from theory to literature (and sometimes don’t even make it all the way to literature...)”—pointless and annoying and stupid.

And you know, speaking of beams and eyes, I really wasn’t impressed by the whole Adam Kotsko blog comment scene, you know?  There actually is a reason why I thought that Adam was wrong when he said that people who haven’t read Zizek beyond his LRB articles should really shut up about him.  Adam thinks I’m wrong, that’s OK; and the following comment thread was certainly not free of attacks on both of us.  But he and his claque, including most noteably you, gathered round for the most juvenile session of nickname-making and insults that I’ve seen in some time.  Do you really want to lecture people about being assholes?  After all, you’re stiil waiting for Sean to send you links about instances in which he has apologized before you’ll stop calling him Sean Mc-Doesn’t-Get-It.

I think that it’s probably time to get back to John’s essay at this point.  If you want to send me more Christian advice, send me Email.

By on 10/06/05 at 12:22 PM | Permanent link to this comment

RP,

One major difference being that CP doesn’t write posts about the absurdity of Rawls (or any other analytic, post-theory, etc. superstar) and those who wish to read him.  That is, he doesn’t waste his time with that which doesn’t interest him.  For myself this isn’t about literature (I could care less about either “Theory” or “anti-Theory” or whatever you people are calling it), it’s about philosophy.

As to the beam in my eye, well, you forget that I never claimed to not be an asshole.  I never claimed to be the morally superior person here.  I am an asshole in conversations like this, because that is what they call for.  If there was some sense of it being serious, or important, I wouldn’t.  As it stands, you seem to think it is important and still act like as asshole.  Also, you came on Tuesday Hate… where we hate things.  It’s not always like that at The Weblog, but human beings are allowed to blow off steam (if it is too vulgar for you, well, sorry).

Could you get my a job?  I can only seem to find multiple part-time gigs.

By on 10/06/05 at 06:16 PM | Permanent link to this comment

I think it’s time to get back to John’s essay, and what I’m interested in within it.

I’d say that the essay is divided into three major sections, a presentation of some Zizekian ideas (pg. 430-432), a section on why Zizek doesn’t understand Kierkegaard (pg. 433-437), and a section on how Zizek’s attack on liberalism was anticipated by Trilling (pg. 438-440).  From a philosophical point of view, I assume that it would be the last two sections that are interesting.  No one here has really addressed them yet.  I’m still addressing the first section.

I’ll start by pointing out the basic continuity, in terms of political ideas, between Zizek as public intellectual and Zizek as theorist.  Here’s Zizek from “Lenin Shot at Finland Station”, an LRB essay:

“In the revolutionary explosion, another utopian dimension shines through, that of universal emancipation, which is in fact the ‘excess’ betrayed by the market reality that takes over on the morning after. This excess is not simply abolished or dismissed as irrelevant, but is, as it were, transposed into the virtual state, as a dream waiting to be realised.”

And Zizek as summarized in Adam Kotsko’s “Slavoj Zizek’s Materialist Trinitarianism” (which draws heavily on _On Belief_):

“Žižek’s praise of Lenin is exemplary: what he wishes to repeat is not Lenin’s positive program, but rather “Lenin-in-becoming,” the revolutionary movement itself ("Repeating"). In that revolutionary movement, the revolution is already actualized, its promise is already fulfilled, no matter what inevitable betrayal follows.”

Who lives in the “morning after”, the moment of “inevitable betrayal”?  Well, certain people do—because social classes still exist, after all—mostly, those not in the middle and upper classes.  In a sort of Hurricane Katrina metaphor, certain people can drive away, and others are left in the floodwaters.  Zizek is rather like someone pulling away in an SUV, waving cheerily and shouting something from Lacan out the window about the importance of not compromising your desire.  Perhaps later he’ll stop at a refugee station and pass around some mock-religious opium in lieu of food and water.  Comfort yourself in the virtual state, brothers and sisters, for the revolution’s promise is already fulfilled. 

For those of us who think that this promise is no more substantial than that of the more standard trinitarian, certain difficulties appear.  Perhaps it’s better to see what can be done in the way of food and water for people now, even if this doesn’t promise them universal emancipation.  Perhaps it’s better to plan for the next catastrophe using the lessons of the current one.  Perhaps glorifying the revolution and its *inevitable* aftermath is not such a great thing after all.

So I arrive at Zizek’s theory of political motivation, as described by Adam in comments above.  In this interpretation, Zizek provokes do-nothing radicals, saying that if they really wanted power, they’d be willing to do messy things, cruel but necessary political acts, perhaps secret police and arbitrary shootings.  The facts that they aren’t willing to consdier these things indicates that they aren’t really interested in power.  I’ve already expressed my scepticism of how this is supposed to work, whether it really is directed at leftists, and whether there are enough leftists of this type to make a difference.  So I’ll ask, does this make sense as a criticism of liberals, of social democrats, or, even, of many socialists?

No, it doesn’t.  The socialist revolution is an experiment that has been attempted and failed.  There are good reasons why it doesn’t work, in the long term.  This isn’t the place for the various theories of why this would be true, but in general, you don’t seem to really get universal emancipation through the kind of violence that Zizek envisions.  Instead you get a state controlled by people who are good at the use of violence.  People know this, and that’s why they don’t think about shooting bankers or the necessity of the secret police.  Not because these liberals, social democrats, and socialists don’t want power, but because they *do* want power, and they have an idea of which kinds of measures will actually lead to it in some enduring form.

Adam Kotsko’s interpretation of this element of Zizek relies on him not being serious, on him only writing what he does about secret police and executions in order to subtly urge the reader to reject empty radicalism for action.  I don’t think that this can be true as long as Zizek continues his revolutionary myth-making in the way that he does.

More in next comment.

By on 10/06/05 at 08:26 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Adam’s essay draws heavily from _On Belief_?  You mean, one citation?  That’s heavy?

By on 10/06/05 at 08:49 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Zizek writes (quoted from John’s essay) that “a Leninist, like a Conservative, is authentic in the sense of fully assuming the consequences
of his choice, i.e., of being fully aware of what it actually means to take power and to exert it. (p. 4)”.  But of course this choice is deeply *inauthentic*, unless one’s concern is with the attainment of power per se rather than with power that can be directed towards emancipatory ends.

Is this merely a claim of liberal orthodoxy, as Adam Kotsko put it, “a broader Zizekian contention, which is that Actually Existing Liberalism has hardened into a kind of orthodoxy, where certain lines of inquiry and political options are cut off precisely through this instinctive declaration “But don’t you realize, man—that leads directly to the Gulag?!”” No, because Zizek appears to agree that the revolution can not bring what it promises.  Thus the language about the market reality that takes over on the day after (only now with added secret police and arbitrary executions), the inevitable betrayal.

But everyone appears to agree that Zizek is not writing about a real revolution, and doesn’t expect his readers to start shooting people.  This attempt at the promulgation of the revolutionary myth with no actual revolution is, of course, even more inauthentic.

What’s fundamentally wrong with Zizek in these scenes is his nostalgia, a true betrayal of any kind of real emancipatory possibility.  Zizek’s world has the revolution immanent everywhere, wearing the face of Lenin from an old social realism poster.

One of the problems with this attempt, per Adam Kotsko, to hearten dispirited leftists with revolutionary and religious language is this nostalgic, past-oriented quality.  If the possibilities are narrowed down to one false dilemma—the Black Book of Communism vs the Black Book of Actually Existing Capitalism—capitalism will win every time.  This is not an instinctive orthodoxy, an unexamined conclusion.  Capitalism simply has not killed as many people as communism has, nor even immiserated as many.  Zizek’s attempt to rehabilitate Lenin, to say that Stalinist nostalgia (the subject of another LRB article) is somehow superior to fascist nostalgia, firmly identifies current leftism as outgrowth of the revolutionaries that he admires.  People need to have the courage to throw them in the historical trash bin if they are at all serious in actually obtaining power for emancipatory purposes.

More in next comment.

By on 10/06/05 at 09:07 PM | Permanent link to this comment

No, it’s more than one citation, but it doesn’t strike me that the part of _On Belief_ I use has a whole lot to do with John’s essay.

I think that Brad is right that the jury is still out on the applicability of Zizek’s ideas to politics.  To some degree Zizek’s actual political project is either underdeveloped or incoherent--depending on how charitable you’re willing to be--and the works that I find most helpful in Zizek are the ones on subjectivity (especially, as should be clear from my paper) and on ideology critique (primarily _Tarrying with the Negative_, which I hadn’t read at the time I wrote the Trinity essay). 

I can anticipate the bitchy comments that will follow from this, but the burden of my argument was that John’s essay does not fairly represent Zizek—I’m not going to go so far as to defend Zizek’s ideas to the death here.  Even if Zizek’s ideas turn out to totally suck ass, though, John presented them inaccurately.  I think that if you gave his paper to anyone who has read a lot of Zizek, they would say the same thing—that John didn’t get Zizek right.  Not because Zizek is sacred and drawing negative conclusions from his ideas is blasphemous, but because he didn’t get him right.  I think there are people prowling around this comment thread who could testify to that, other than just me.

But who am I, really?  Just some guy on the internet.

By Adam Kotsko on 10/06/05 at 09:10 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Rich,

Arguably, you’re incorrect about the number of people killed/immiserated by capitalism—it depends on what you mean by “capitalism.” For instance, let’s see the numbers on the American institution of slavery--surely the number of people “immiserated” there far outstrips even Stalin’s wildest dreams.

The thing that makes it both complicated and insidious is that with capitalism, the deaths can always be written off as accidental, since no one “ordered” them (at least in most cases).  I mean, yes, this is a totally different discussion that we’re not going to settle on a literary website, but I don’t think you can just baldly state as a self-evident fact that capitalism has killed fewer people than communism.

By Adam Kotsko on 10/06/05 at 09:15 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Arghh.  More *not* in this comment; now I’ve got to do something.  Perhaps later.  I was going to relate Zizek to China Mieville, a far more interesting writer and public intellectual, as examples of the problem common to most current socialists of socialist pessimism and of hidden nostalgia.

In brief answer to Adam above, I predicted that the next stop would be “Holbo is wrong”, supported closely by “Holbo hasn’t read enough Zizek”.  But you haven’t said *why* he’s wrong.  You’ve given your own interpretation of what Zizek was trying to do, but it’s based on Zizek gaming his readers through a model of reader response that appears to not actually exist.  The rest is an appeal to the authority of the numinous “people prowling around this comment thread” who would support the contention that “I think that if you gave his paper to anyone who has read a lot of Zizek, they would say the same thing—that John didn’t get Zizek right.” Well, is anyone going to actually say that and support it?

As for slavery and capitalism, this isn’t the place.  Suffice it to say for now that since the current capitalist system doesn’t include chattal slavery, an identification of socialism with the Marxist-Leninist tradition and of capitalism with Actually Existing Capitalism is still the wrong comparison.

By on 10/06/05 at 09:41 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Here’s a relevant passage from the Zizek interview drawn to my attention by Robert:

To be quite frank, especially after doing that book on Lenin, people laugh at me saying “oh, oh, oh you want Leninism.” But no, sorry, I am not totally crazy [chuckles]. I’m just saying that - as you hinted at also - I don’t think the Left is ready to draw all the consequences of the deep shit it is in. The phenomena you invoked - calling Bush a fascist, and so on, display the Left’s disorientation. In Europe, you have this nostalgic reaction, which explains the Left’s irrational hatred of people like Tony Blair or Gerhardt Schroeder in Germany. Not that I love them, but they way they are often criticized is that they betrayed the old welfare states. Ok, but, what was the choice? It is not as if everything would be ok if we would just remain faithful to the old social democratic logic. Or, to give you another example, once I had dinner with Richard Rorty, and he admitted to me that his dream is that of Adlai Stevenson; his solution is that we should return to a socially active role for the Democratic Party. I wonder if it’s as simple as that? I don’t think it’s simply that some bad guys around Tony Blair in England, for example, betrayed the old Labour Party. No, the problem is that… What is the alternative here? To be quite honest, I am at the state of just asking questions.

So, again, when I problematize even democracy, it’s not this typical Leftist, fascist way of, oh it’s not spectacular enough; we need radical measures. No, it’s maybe that we should start to ask questions like, “What does democracy effectively mean, and how does it function today? What do we really decide?” For example, let’s take the last twenty or thirty years of history. There was a tremendous shift, as we all know, in the entire social functioning of the State, the way the economy changed with globalization, the way social services and health care are perceived. There was a global shift, but we never voted about that. So, the biggest change, the biggest structural shift in the entire logic of capitalistic, democratic states is something that we, the citizens, never decided. Now, I’m not saying we should abandon democracy. I’m just saying that we should start asking these elementary questions: What do we decide today? Why are some things simply perceived as necessity?

Like so much of what I’ve seen of Zizek’s writing, this amazing passage combines an element of truth with a large helping of bologna--in this case, the thought that you need to envision Leninism to make clear to yourself the failings of liberalism that you would otherwise be too blind to see and that you are anyway not going to do much to address apart from “just asking questions.”

I’m sorry that I didn’t mention it before, but I think John’s comparison to Trilling nails brilliantly what’s going on here--including in a way that helps to clarify the repugnantly glib and avowedly unserious invocation of revolutionary cruelty.

In his effort to give liberalism ballast, and in his employment of Freud toward that end, Trilling sometimes suggested (in The Middle of the Journey for example) that there was a homeopathic value to confronting political violence.  Liberals tended to be shallow.  Better that they should be aware that politics is at bottom always near to brutality.  Read your Tacitus.  Remember the show trials.  Don’t forget that humanity is monstrous and that the darkness is in your own soul too.

I think this is one of the more appealing, but also more doubtful aspects of Trilling.  Among other things, it tends toward an essentialism or dehistoricizing of human violence, and, of course, it can license a caution that when, say, the Civil Rights movement comes around, will not stand you in good stead. 

So far as I can tell, Zizek’s Lenin just recycles that attitude.  For Zizek, there appears to be no point to thinking about Lenin except to remind yourself that life is cruel and shiny happy people get stomped on. At least Trilling was clear about what he was doing when he took up similar attitudes and emphatic that he was intensly anti-stalinist and not much of a progressive.  As John points out, Zizek either doesn’t know this about himself or can’t come clean about it. 

Adam, it is refreshing to see you acknowledge that “to some degree Zizek’s actual political project is either underdeveloped or incoherent--depending on how charitable you’re willing to be.” This merely confirms my impression that the flaming that showed up on my thread had little to do with the substance of my remark comparing Zizek to Sorel (which, accounting for the fact that Zizek doesn’t actually hope for a revolution to occur, still looks to me on the evidence so far to hold up) and more to do with my perceived charity. 

In any case, I think you’ve got a point in considering American slavery among the evils of capitalism.  Here’s the thing, though.  If someone were to say today, “you know a little slavery wouldn’t be such a bad thing,” we would rightly think him morally bankrupt.  If he then said, “but I don’t really mean it,” many of us would probably agree that he was not just morally insensible, but a jackass to boot.  This is pretty much the stance Zizek seems to take toward the cheka.

By on 10/06/05 at 09:57 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Rich,

You’re right that this is not the place to settle the issue that *you raised* with regard to capitalism/communism.  I simply threw out an alternate perspective rather than let your unsupported assertion stand.  To be clear: I have no interest in taking the debate on that topic any further.

If in your opinion I haven’t yet said why John’s reading of Zizek is wrong, then I have absolutely no idea what would count as “saying why John’s reading of Zizek is wrong.”

The two people I can rely on to back me up on this have decided this entire site is a waste of time, so I’m kind of screwed.  I should have thought of that fact before I mentioned the “other witnesses” thing.  So we can chalk up one point against me.  But I don’t think it’s *just* an “appeal to authority” to say that no attentive reader of Zizek would find John’s reading persuasive.  Like if I were to say that Joyce’s writing is all about homosexuality based on ... I don’t know ... something that would kind of support that if that was all you had read and you weren’t very sympathetic to Joyce in the first place, then you could rally all the Joyce readers out there and they would say, “No.  It’s not.” I don’t think this is an inadmissable strategy.

By Adam Kotsko on 10/06/05 at 10:01 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Sean,

If we were going to do a materialist analysis of the causes behind my behavior in the Sorel thread, it ultimately comes down to the fact that I was participating in the thread as “something to do” while I was taking breaks from reading Nietzsche excruciatingly slowly, in German.  That kind of thing does mess with one’s mind and one’s rhetorical strategies.  A lot of it really was just sheer aggression.  I’m over that now, I hope.  This is the New More Substantive Kotsko.

Plus, there’s the fact that at the end of the day, I don’t think that Benjamin’s idea, which Zizek quotes, is really absurd *at all,* no matter whether it comes from Sorel or not (which I am not competent to judge).  I’m not sure whether I was clear on that or not.  Chances are, I wasn’t.  But anyway: no, not absurd, in my opinion.  It wouldn’t have mattered if you’d called it Santner’s absurd theory or Benjamin’s absurd theory--I still would have objected.

By Adam Kotsko on 10/06/05 at 10:12 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Adam: “If in your opinion I haven’t yet said why John’s reading of Zizek is wrong, then I have absolutely no idea what would count as “saying why John’s reading of Zizek is wrong.””

The problem is that your interpretative theory of Zizek fails under its own weight.  I don’t see any reasonable causative theory that leads from Zizek provocatively approving of secret police and executions to his readers deciding to support Clinton’s health plan.  You say that John missed Zizek’s “I’m only joking” ploy, but it’s a ploy that patently would not work.  Perhaps Zizek is saying that he’s doing this, but “he’s only joking” again as an excuse for simple approval of secret police and revolutionary execution as necessary towards taking power.  Why not?  Once you start with theories of provocation that actually mean the opposite of what they say they mean, there is no reason to stop with only one iteration.

From here on, I’ll let John defend himself in that aspect of his work.  If you read what he has written above, he has read a good deal of Zizek at this point.  Saying that he’s got it wrong because he hasn’t read enough doesn’t appear very credible.

At this point, I’m more interested in the criticism that I started with my two long comments above, which concerns Zizek’s political project.  The contention that we can’t discuss this if we haven’t read Zizek’s further works, even though Zizek is participating in popular political discussion, is what struck me as frankly elitist about your stance in the first place.

By on 10/06/05 at 11:00 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Rich,

I’m not really interested in defending Zizek’s positive political project—I’m not that invested in it, and anyway I’m not sure that he’s yet developed it adequately enough for a thorough-going defense to be possible.  It strikes me as pretty stupid, actually, for Zizek to use his popular writings as a way of “thinking out loud.”

What you’re saying about my reading of John’s article, etc., frankly doesn’t make sense to me.

By Adam Kotsko on 10/06/05 at 11:07 PM | Permanent link to this comment

If he then said, “but I don’t really mean it,” many of us would probably agree that he was not just morally insensible, but a jackass to boot.  This is pretty much the stance Zizek seems to take toward the cheka.

Why do people assume Zizek “doesn’t mean it”?? Simply because “he couldn’t possibly meant it”?

I also think it’s worth pointing out that Zizek makes a point of saying he’s not about nostalgia, he’s not interested in going back to the ‘good old days’ of Soviet Communism etc. He does not want to return to a particular regime, but to rediscover the revolutionary impulse in new conditions. I’m sure RIch wouldn’t recongnise this distinction, but Zizek is quite explicit about it. His sense of ‘repeating’ Lenin rests on a notion of repetition that is - in Zizek’s peculiar sense -’Kierkegaardian’.

By on 10/07/05 at 12:01 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Adam: “I’m not really interested in defending Zizek’s positive political project—I’m not that invested in it, and anyway I’m not sure that he’s yet developed it adequately enough for a thorough-going defense to be possible.”

But the Zizek of your essay “Slavoj Zizek’s Materialist Trinitarianism” *is* largely the Zizek with a positive political project.  The middle section of the essay appears to be influenced by _On Belief_.  Your entire reason, so far, for saying that John is wrong is that you claim that he’s mistaken Zizek’s positive political project for something it isn’t.  Unless you wrote something about Kierkegaard or Trilling that I missed?

Now you say that my reading of your interpretive theory of Zizek is wrong.  Please correct me.  I understood you to be saying that when Zizek apparently supports secret police and arbitrary executions, he is not actually supporting these things.  Instead, this is a provocation, intended to cause academic leftists to reconsider their ineffectuality and turn to action in favor of the “common sense kind of stuff that we all know would make the world better”—action which, however, probably does not involve actual violence as such.  Therefore John is wrong because he took Zizek literally, when Zizek merely meant to be provocative.  Right?

My answer is that your theory does not work.  There is no clear path between provocative advocacy of violence in favor of revolution and a resulting mobilization of nonviolent activism in favor of lesser goals.  It appears far more probable that Zizek advocates revolutionary violence as a way to gather a critical following of those attracted to radical chic, and simply says that it’s only a provocation whenever questioned.  This is made believable by the fact that he really isn’t serious about it, although he is unserious about it not for the reason that he has a complex provocation in mind, but because he is unserious.

By on 10/07/05 at 12:01 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Hvala Pivo: “Why do people assume Zizek “doesn’t mean it”?? Simply because “he couldn’t possibly meant it”?”

Oh, please argue this with Adam, would you?  Adam says that he doesn’t really mean it.  John does also, but for different reasons.

“I also think it’s worth pointing out that Zizek makes a point of saying he’s not about nostalgia, he’s not interested in going back to the ‘good old days’ of Soviet Communism etc. He does not want to return to a particular regime, but to rediscover the revolutionary impulse in new conditions. I’m sure RIch wouldn’t recongnise this distinction, but Zizek is quite explicit about it.”

Zizek says that he’s not about nostalgia, but he’s wrong.  You can not rehabilitate the revolutionaries of the past without being about nostalgia, whether you claim that you’re interested in returning to Communism or not.

By on 10/07/05 at 12:14 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Rich:

I am trying to describe Zizek’s rhetorical strategy.  I am well aware that it is not a very good rhetorical strategy—in fact, it seems clear that for this crowd, it’s a complete and total flop.  Maybe he’ll do better next time.  The fact that his rhetorical strategy is extremely unlikely to produce his desired results does not prevent his rhetorical strategy from being his rhetorical strategy.  I am being descriptive here, not claiming that it’s a good rhetorical strategy.  But to the extent that John doesn’t seem to me to recognize that that strategy is what’s going on (in his article, which he seems to basically still stand by), his critique misses his target.  It’s not AT ALL that he’s not allowed to critique or that disagreeing with Zizek is

The part of _On Belief_ that I used in that paper is relatively detachable from the rest of his argument (which you should expect given John’s accurate description of the book as pretty patched together and jumbled)—in fact, similar kinds of arguments are made elsewhere in his work, but it was most convenient for me to quote the way he puts it in _On Belief_ (easy numbered steps).  Also, I believe that I was trying to quote as many different Zizek books as possible, and that was the only part of _On Belief_ I could really use.  (I’m not expecting that you would be able to tell that that was my motivation from just reading it, but I have kind of a “thing” for wanting to have as long a works cited page as possible.)

I think it’s hard to characterize my description of Zizek’s Lacanian ethics and general theory of the political as a “political project” in the sense of “What is to be done?” or in the sense of providing any kind of specific guidelines for political interventions of the type that Zizek is doing now.

By Adam Kotsko on 10/07/05 at 12:18 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Adam: “The fact that his rhetorical strategy is extremely unlikely to produce his desired results does not prevent his rhetorical strategy from being his rhetorical strategy.  I am being descriptive here, not claiming that it’s a good rhetorical strategy.”

I understand this.  What I’m saying is, how do you know that this is really his rhetorical strategy?  Since it doesn’t appear to produce results, or even have any really plausible path by which it *could* produce results, how do you know that it is what it is?  Because he’s said so?  What if he was only joking?

Just as John can not read Zizek’s mind and say that when he appears to support secret police and arbitrary executions, he is being “serious”, you can not read his mind and say that he is being “provocative”.  Anything that Zizek says about the matter could be a double-bluff or merely a lie.  And of course no one really believes that Zizek is “serious”, because he’s so feckless, so the bit about it being a really unbelievably badly executed provocation appears plausible to those who don’t want to believe that it’s simply a line of self-serving radical-appearing BS.

All that you’re really left with is that Zizek appears with a theme song warbling something about secret police and revolutionary executions somewhere in the background.  That’s pretty much what John wrote.

By on 10/07/05 at 01:06 AM | Permanent link to this comment

RE the point made by ‘hvala pivo’ (almost certainly a pseudonym, given that the words mean ‘Thank you beer’ in Serbo-Croat), I’d just like to draw people’s attention to the following passage from ‘Revolution At the Gates’:

“‘Lenin’ is not the nostalgic name for old dogmatic certainty; quite the contrary, the Lenin who is to be retrieved is the Lenin whose fundamental experience was that of being thrown into a catastrophic new constellation in which the old co-ordinates proved useless, and who was thus compelled to re-invent Marxism – take his acerbic remark apropos of some new problem: “About this, Marx and Engels said not a word”. The idea is not to return to Lenin, but to repeat him in the Kierkegaardian sense: to retrieve the same impulse in today’s constellation. The return to Lenin aims neither at nostalgically re-enacting the “good old revolutionary times”, nor at an opportunistic-pragmatic adjustment of the old programme to “new conditions”, but at repeating, in the present worldwide conditions, the Leninist gesture of reinventing the revolutionary project in the conditions of imperialism and colonialism… “Lenin” stands for the compelling freedom to suspend the stale existing (post-)ideological co-ordinates.. in which we live.. “

In a sense (as Zizek acknowledges) he reduces Lenin to little more than the name ‘for a certain revolutionary stance’. And it is this stance, rather than the contents and costumes of the Russian Revolution, that Zizek wants to find again. His ‘nostalgia’, he would doubtless insist, is for this stance and for the space of possibilities opened up by the revolution rather than the ensuing actuality. Needless to say, many would reject this distinction as pernicious.

What particularly appeals (to Z) about Lenin is his refusal to wait for the right ‘objective historical situation’ to come along for revolutionary intervention, as though revolutionary initiative lay with ‘History’. This is an illusion (the illusion of teh Big Other). Instead, Lenin demonstrates how we must fully assume this initiative ourselves, and in so doing precisely transform the very ‘objective conditions’ that others passively await.

(Zizek: “such a position of the objective observer (and not of an engaged agent) is itself the main obstacle to the revolution")

By Mark Kaplan on 10/07/05 at 04:00 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Ah yes, how ill advised to compare this to Sorel since it says practically the same thing.

By on 10/07/05 at 04:20 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Sean,

Sounds interesting, do you have some references for Sorel and/or could you say more?

By on 10/07/05 at 04:34 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Mark writes: “In a sense (as Zizek acknowledges) he reduces Lenin to little more than the name ‘for a certain revolutionary stance’. And it is this stance, rather than the contents and costumes of the Russian Revolution, that Zizek wants to find again. His ‘nostalgia’, he would doubtless insist, is for this stance and for the space of possibilities opened up by the revolution rather than the ensuing actuality. Needless to say, many would reject this distinction as pernicious.”

I don’t know if I would exactly “reject this distinction as pernicious”.  The question is whether the distinction can be successful.  At heart, what Zizek is doing with this supposed Kierkegaardian repeat is similar to one of the failed and tired reframing exercises that liberals appear enamored of recently.  When you think “Lenin”, he says, don’t think of the historical Lenin.  Think of “Lenin” as a certain revolutionary stance and the space of pssibilities that it opens up. 

But why “Lenin” for this revamped symbol?  It owes nothing to the historical reality of Lenin, after all; he was hardly someone who “refus[ed] to wait for the right ‘objective historical situation’ to come along for revolutionary intervention”, as an examination of his years in Finland would show.  On the contrary, part of his brilliance as a revolutionary consisted of his extensive thought about when to act and how to act.  He certainly *disagreed* with many others about what kind of historical situation was required for revolution, but after all, he turned out to be right and they did not.  (Insofar as the immediate revolution goes, of course.  There may be still some socialists arguing that the “premature” revolution in Russia is what caused the misdevelopment and failure of world socialism).

So, since history doesn’t really support this claim, why “Lenin” and not some other symbol for this revolutionary stance?  Because it can not be admitted that his revolution resulted in failure?  No, because Zizek says that all revolutions result in failure on the morning after.  Because of his unique personal gifts?  They are hardly seperable from history.

I suspect that the reason is because it’s a good brand name for radical chic.  From the joking FAQ to the blog Lenin’s Tomb, which China Mieville occasionally posts on: the blog has this name because “as Slavoj Zizek points out, Lenin is one of the last truly subversive signifiers. The Wall Street Journal can appreciate Marx, but Lenin still evokes a shiver or two. Therein lies the attraction.” But the Lenin that can be counted on to evoke a shiver or two in the Wall Street Journal is not the Lenin, seperated from history, that can appear as the abstract name for a revolutionary stance. 

When the WSJ shivers, they aren’t shivering at an abstract stance, at the thought that someone may have the “compelling freedom to suspend the stale existing (post-)ideological co-ordinates” in which we live.  On the contrary, elite thought is characterized, as Zizek says, by a smug conviction that socialism is over.  So the WSJ’s shiver, if it exists, is a histrionic one, a cheap way of showing their moral superiority to Communist history, of reinforcing the historical connections that those who look for shivers at Lenin’s name are relying on in the first place.  It’s a wink-and-nod transaction between the WSJ and the radicals; both are happy, both got what they wanted.  Both are equally pleased by nostalgia.

By on 10/07/05 at 07:23 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Yes Sean, can you?  Please don’t hold back.

Rich, you might be interested in what a certain Slovenian philosopher has to say about winks and nods, if you can ever be so bothered.  But then, Holbo has already read one thing so I guess you don’t have to.  How perfectly responsible.

By on 10/07/05 at 09:00 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Rich Puchalsky:

“I was going to relate Zizek to China Mieville, a far more interesting writer and public intellectual...”

Rich, what are, in your opinion, Zizek’s best, most representative works?  And please can you describe as charitably as possible how he would like to perceives his project and contribution.  Short of showing me you can do this with any accuracy at all, you’re no fucking authority on anything.  And John’s inevitable shower song about “the best of their days” etc. is utter nonesense, insofar as the point of course is to compare the best of the monster’s days to the best of the would-be monster slayer’s days.  Otherwise isn’t this all just cheap opportunism, plain and simple?  Shouldn’t the lot of you start doing your own homework?

By on 10/07/05 at 09:26 PM | Permanent link to this comment

John Holbo, how do you reconcile your broad claims about Z. (let alone the rich and laughable insinuations of your less than brilliant cohorts) with the following passages?  I must say, I don’t get it.  NOT AT ALL.  For starters, maybe you could summarize roughly Zizek’s reading of Kierkegaard as you see it?  Also, what if, any is the general contribution made by Derrida’s reading of Kierkegaard (as Z. is obviously refencing it), would you say?  (All complaints with writing styles, etc. for the moment left aside.) Thanks very much. 

But in any case, here are just two of the seemingly relevant passages, pulled almost at random from one of The Supreme and Superior Canonical Works:

“For Lacan, negativity, a negative gesture of withdrawal, precedes any positive gesture of enthusiastic identification with a Cause:  negativity functions as the condition of (im)possibility of the enthusiastic identification--that is to say, it lays the ground, opens up space for it, but is simultaneously obfuscated by it and undermines it.  For this reason, Lacan implicitly changes the balance between Death and Resuurection in favour of Death:  what ‘Death’ stands for at its most radical is not merely the passing of earthly life, but the ‘night of the world’, the self-withdrawal, the absolute contraction of subjectivity, the severing of its links with ‘reality’--*this* is the ‘wiping of the slate clear’ that opens up the doman of the symbolic New Beginning, of the emergence of the ‘New Harmony’ sustained by a newly emerged Master-Signifier.

Here, Lacan parts company with St. Paul and Badiou:  God not only is but always-already was dead--that is to say, after Freud, one cannot directly have faith in a Truth-Event; every such Event ultimately remains a semblance obfuscating a preceding

“The distinction between APPEARANCE and the postmodern notion of SIMULACRUM as no longer clearly distinguishable from the Real is crucial here. The political as the domain of appearance...has nothing in common with the postmodern notion that we are entering the era of universalized simulacra in which reality itself becomes indistinguishable from its simulated double. The nostalgic longing for the authentic experience of being lost in the deluge of simulacra (detectable in Virilio), as well as the postmodern assertion of the Brave New World of universalized simulacra as the sign that we are finally getting rid of the metaphysical obsession with authentic Being (detectable in Vattimo), both miss the distinction between simulacra and appearance: what gets lost in today’s ‘plague of simulations’ is not the firm, true, non-simulated Real, but appearance itself...The old conservative motto of ‘keeping up appearances’ thus takes a new twist today: it no longer stands for the ‘wisdom’ according to which it is better not to disturb the rules of social etiquette too much, since social chaos might ensue. Today, the effort to ‘keep up appearances’ stands, rather, for the effort to maintain the properly political space against the onslaught of the postmodern all-embracing social body, with its multitude of particular identities.

This is also how one has to read Hegel’s famous dictum from his _Phenomenology_: ‘the Suprasensible is appearance qua appearance’. In a sentimental answer to a child asking him what God’s face is like, a priest answers that whenever the child encounters a human face irradiating benevolence and goodness, whoever this face belongs to, he catches a glimpse of His face...The truth of this sentimental platitude is that the Suprasensible (God’s face) is discernible as a momentary, fleeting appearance, the ‘grimace’ of an earthly face. It is THIS dimension of ‘appearance’ transubstantiating a piece of reality into something which, for a brief moment, irradiates the suprasensible Eternity that is missing in the logic of the simulacrum: in the simulacrum, which becomes indistinguishable from the Real, everything is here, and no other, transcendent dimension effectively ‘appears’ in/through it. Here we are back at the Kantian problematic of the sublime: in Kant’s famous reading of the enthusiasm evoked by the French Revolution in the enlightened public around Europe, the revolutionary events functioned as a sign through which the dimension of trans-phenomenal Freedom, of a free society, APPEARED. ‘Appearance’ is thus not simply the domain of phenomena, but those ‘magic moments’ in which another, noumenal dimension momentarily ‘appears’ in (’shines through’) some empirical/contingent phenomenon...In short, one should distinguish here between two couples of opposites whicha re absolutely not to be confused int eh single opposition of appearance verus reality: the couple of reality and its simulacrum, and the couple of the Real and appearance. The Real is a grimace of reality: say, a disgustingly contorted face in which the Real of a deadly rage transpires/appears...”

_The Fragile Absolute_, 195-196

(Obviously, anybody wishing to be an authority on Z. should probably take a gander at this book at the very least, unless of course they wish a) only to be surrounded flatterers or b) laughed off the podium by those more honestly deserving the label of ‘friend.’)

Others interested may also find the passages in said book on ‘the King’ most edifying.

By on 10/07/05 at 10:03 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Dear SS, I will respond later but it might help my response along if you answered something first. In my P&L paper, which I assume you have read, I 1) explain Kierkegaard on faith and the teleological suspension of the ethical; 2) explain what Z says about Kierkegaard on faith and the teleological suspension of the ethical; 3) the two are poles apart. You fault me for not summarizing Z. on Kierkegaard. I think I have not ‘summarized’ only to the extent that, instead, I explained pretty exhaustively. What is it you want to know about Z on K, according to me, that my paper doesn’t tell you?

I don’t think Zizek’s reading of K is just fencing Derrida under the table, and I don’t think Zizek is the sort who is likely to fence Derrida. He doesn’t like or use Derrida much (although I am humbly amenable to correction, if this is the exception.) If Derrida really says about Kierkegaard what Z. says about K in “On Belief” then Derrida has a much wronger reading of K than I had supposed. (I’ve dipped into D. on K. and didn’t think much of it, but I didn’t think much about it period, so I can’t say.)

I think I understand what the passage from the “Fragile Absolute” says (except for some bits where, as Kierkegaard himself might say of Hegel, the author has not made himself clear.) But what does this have to do with Zizek’s misreading of Kierkegaard, in particular?

By John Holbo on 10/07/05 at 11:35 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Hvala and Ambrose and Serenity Sperm,

(Would I be wrong to assume that the last two of you are in fact the same person and lack the confidence to speak without disguise?)

You might begin by reading Sorel’s Reflections on Violence.  You could follow that up by looking at the interview referenced by Robert, where Zizek notes the similarity between his ideas of revolution and Sorel’s and both acknowledges an affinity and seeks to mark a difference.  It wouldn’t be implausible I believe to describe that effort as the narcissism of small differences, except that, as frequently noted now, Zizek does not really expect the revolution he invokes to occur.  In short, it seems he and Sorel have similar frameworks for understanding revolution and different expectations for its possible realization.  I gather that that point is marked in the passage you referred to by Zizek’s discussion of negativity.  If I follow correctly, this doesn’t strike me as a very profound or difficult concept: no universal emancipation because no end to negativity.  I see the point, but don’t see that it challenges my view of Zizek as sharing with Sorel a sense that revolution would be a messianic occurence that depends on a shattering disruption of conventional reality and that in both cases will be brought off only the ability of elites (Lenin) to surpass the limited thinking of their fellows and to thereby create a vision to which others commit.  You may if you like explain why this is wrong. 

None of the passages you quote are inconsistent with this view.  The notion that “revolutionary events functioned as a sign through which the dimension of trans-phenomenal Freedom, of a free society, APPEARED,” along with the view of them as “magic,” is one of the sources of my objection to Zizek.  This is, of course, not at all an unfamiliar way of describing revolution.  In my view, it’s a bad way because, among other things, of its lack of interest in consequences and planning.  It’s not my sense that what’s missing from our political world is a proper appreciation for magic.  Serenity/Ambrose, you and other Zizekians no doubt differ.

By on 10/08/05 at 07:45 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Rich, that’s brilliantly said and dead-on, I think--though I do suspect that in their hearts the editors of the WSJ cherish a fear of one, two, many Lenins.

By on 10/08/05 at 07:50 AM | Permanent link to this comment

None of the passages you quote are inconsistent with this view One has the impression that no passage that anyone might quote could be inconsistent with your view.

By on 10/08/05 at 08:06 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Indeed Sean, have you ever heard of Benn Michaels?  (Imagine that question with a British accent, if you can.)

Holbo, Zizek more or less (mostly less) productively misreads Derrida all the time; this has been common knowledge for some time.  But are you really sure you’ve understood that passage if you haven’t read any Derrida, other than to say you’ve “dipped in” but “didn’t think much of it”?  There’s a reason this complaint keeps coming up, and it’s not purely because someone’s panties are in a bunch.  The smugness of the Anglophone philosophy that indeed as Anthony rightly points out is the real dominant “empire” here in every sense of course, consists precisely in presuming itself qualified to pronounce all sorts of final judgements on something it ultimately knows very little, if not nothing, about.  Surely you’re familar with Badiou, Virilio and Vattimo (and of course Baudrillard), or at least the outline of their strongest concepts, not least among which is the ‘event,’ however.

By on 10/08/05 at 12:31 PM | Permanent link to this comment

But why “Lenin” for this revamped symbol?  It owes nothing to the historical reality of Lenin

Zizek (as you’d expect)thinks it does owe something and argues this in ‘Revolution at the Gates’. Do read it if you’re interested in the specifics. ‘Objective historical conditions’ refers to the received Marxist narrative of necessary historical stages - the idea that a revolution was ‘premature’ in terms of teh level of capitalist development etc. It’s this that Lenin refuses. Zizek of course agrees with you about Lenin’s tactical acumen in picking the right moment to intervene. But this is a separate point. Perhaps I didn’t make this clear.

By Mark Kaplan on 10/08/05 at 04:22 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Ambrose Chapel, or should I say Serenity Sperm, or should I say Matt Christie,

I’ll admit your humor is beyond me, as your ideas, for lack of a better word, usually are.  I also fail to understand why you adopt multiple names (if your IP didn’t give you away, your boorish attitude and prose non-style probably would) or what gratification it is you get from filling up the threads around these parts with pointless salvos that, as you later acknowledge, show you to be acting the fool. 

Neas or Hvala or whoever you are, I understand why you, like Matt, would not want to put your name to your comments.  Like him you also seem not to understand that impressions are not arguments.  No one has yet pointed out why my initial comparison was wrong.  Nor, in fact, was anyone interested in it.  They just didn’t like seeing Zizek called absurd--a thankless stance, I imagine.

By on 10/08/05 at 05:58 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Sean,

Forgive me for saying so, but I think you should probably take another cold hard glance at this entire comment thread, and then answer the questions currently left dangling on the Sorel one.  And then perhaps you should apologize.

Really, you come across, at least on blogs, as a rather predictable and petulant numbskull, unwilling to follow through on his curiosity if not lacking in that department altogether.  Try that on for impression.

By Paul Nelson on 10/08/05 at 11:09 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Gee wiz, Sean.  You really nailed “us?” with that impression not argument line.  Do you mind if I use that sometime, preferably at the tail end of someone else’s thread?

I am not aware of acting or acknowledging any such thing with regard to this thread of course, and now that I look it does seem as though you have some answering to do elsewhere, namely:  on your own thread.  That said, I have never been especially keen to hide from you the fact that I dislike you immensely, which I do.  And in truth, not that it matters (clearly not to him), I was pretty disappointed with Holbo’s response, among other things (it amazes me to no end all the things he’s apparently felt quite comfortable saying, and then being rightly, repeatedly called on, to which he responds with clever Calvin and Hobbes doodlings, all the while professing most seriously to address every just concern adequately and conclusively in some forever future post or thread), so anyway it’s probably a safe bet you won’t see me around here again.

By Matt on 10/08/05 at 11:31 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Well, as far as I can tell, Sean and the other Valvesters are the only ones who seem interested in actually arguing points.  I’m not sure what the ostensible Zizek defenders are getting out of this.

By on 10/08/05 at 11:35 PM | Permanent link to this comment

If I haven’t “argued points” at any time in this thread, then I don’t know what could count as “arguing points.” All these years of education—wasted! 

Luckily, I do have another “calling” at the ready: e-mail chess.

By Adam Kotsko on 10/08/05 at 11:51 PM | Permanent link to this comment

For such “points” and other delicacies, one might refer to the comments to Sean’s thread here.

Say, “blah” do you ever make any arguments yourself? 

Or are you just like somebody’s insta-thread thermometer or temperature adjuster when he feels that “you” are needed.

By bleh on 10/09/05 at 12:07 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Oh, I am nobody’s sock puppet, if that’s what you mean.  If I were, I would have chosen a wittier nom de plume.  “Mary Rosh” perhaps? 

Anyway, yes I do make arguments when I have something informed and intelligent to say. 

I have read some Zizek in the past and found his writing not to my taste.  Following these threads, I have been waiting for somebody to give a rousing defense of Zizek, but so far I haven’t really seen anyone say why it is useful or interesting to read Zizek.  Most of the Zizek defenders have limited themselves to saying that Sean (and the others) have gotten Zizek wrong. 

Sorry, that’s just how I see it.

By on 10/09/05 at 12:18 AM | Permanent link to this comment

A rousing defense?  Well Adam has written something or two.  Or you might consider starting here, or with the new film Scott McLemee recently reviewed, quite favorably as I remember, or any number of other places really.  I suppose it all depends on how lazy one decides to be about forming one’s judgements, in the end, but I’ll grant that it is hard to understand his contribution without an appreciation, however minimal, for the tradition in which he would hear himself speak.

He’s undeniably brilliant and funny, deeply caring and unconventional, in any case.

By bleh on 10/09/05 at 12:40 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Matt writes,

“And in truth, not that it matters (clearly not to him), I was pretty disappointed with Holbo’s response, among other things (it amazes me to no end all the things he’s apparently felt quite comfortable saying, and then being rightly, repeatedly called on, to which he responds with clever Calvin and Hobbes doodlings, all the while professing most seriously to address every just concern adequately and conclusively in some forever future post or thread), so anyway it’s probably a safe bet you won’t see me around here again.”

Matt, here’s a point about manners. When you show up wearing a sock puppet with ‘serenity sperm’ stitched on it, levity may ensue. (All that is profound wears a mask, but a good deal else may do so as well.) Also, it simply has to be the case that any discussion of Zizek is allowed to marinate itself in far-fetched pop cultural noodlings. Goose, gander. As to your screeds against the smug imperial hegemony of anglophone philosophy: think what you like. But whatever standard of acceptable rhetorical ratcheting up up and up you choose to impose on me, please try to be consistent in applying it to yourself. That only seems fair.

As to Derrida and Kierkegaard. Not everything Derrida writes is about Kierkegaard, so when I say I haven’t done more than dabble in Derrida on Kierkegaard, you shouldn’t assume I haven’t read Derrida. I’m really saying: I spent an afternoon browsing through “The Gift of Death” but am not prepared to render final judgment. Is this intolerably smug and final judgmental of me? (The only alternative is to pretend to know what I do not. Would that be better?) Zizek influenced by Derrida? Well, obviously he’s read, but I take him to be attempting to rout around. I could be wrong. And, as Plato writes, the price I should pay should then be: instruction at the hands of those who know better. I am willing to pay such a price.

One reason why I find it hard to answer your questions is that they chiefly amount to complaints about what I haven’t done yet. This is reasonable up to a point, but one would want these complaints supplemented with reasons to think what has happened already is wrong, or at least on the wrong track. I don’t understand why your sock-puppet held up that particular passage from “The Fragile Absolute”. How does it bear on my interpretation of Z on K. I take it you are not simply imposing an impossible ‘unizizek in a grain of sand’ standard on me: namely, whatever I say about Zizek on anything must be adequate to everything Zizek says about everything. But if you are not doing that, what are you doing? Perhaps the passage contains some specific implication that undermines my reading of Z on K, hence refutes my P&L paper’s thesis. Well, then I have not guessed the riddle.

By John Holbo on 10/09/05 at 01:31 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Matt, here’s what you said in your comment at the end of the threat on Foucault and Iran: 

I’ve been a bit of an ass in this thread, so apologies to the whatever general audience for that.  Ta.

I think it applies equally well throughout.  In any case, you don’t like me?  Fine. Why not play in your own yard then? 

Thank you for the advice, Paul.  Tell you what.  If there’s a question you’d seriously like to raise about a comparison between Sorel and Zizek, I’d be glad to try to answer it.  As Adam for one now acknowledges, his comments to that thread weren’t serious.  Since Adam is deferred to by others in that thread and since neither his tone nor the substance of his questions appear outliers, it seems fair to me to consider most of the other comments equally unserious.  If you think I’m wrong, remind me of what I’ve missed and I’ll make an effort to address it.  Meanwhile, it would be nice if less criticism sent my way had to do with my personality and more to do with my claims.

By on 10/09/05 at 07:17 AM | Permanent link to this comment

John, the pasta water is boiling so this re-entry may be short-lived, but thank you for the response. 

It is not without a small bit of bemusement that I cannot help but notice it’s only a sock puppet who warrants your direct response, in this case a lecture on manners, while my initial response to your post (a more or less successful attempt to jumpstart conversation from “our” side at the time, I thought) as well as my subsequent direct questions, go unanswered.  Just for the record, I was sincere in proposing that such a point by point comparison (as outlined above) might be useful to all involved, but obviously the time for that has passed, and maybe it was overly optimistic anyway.  I certainly don’t object, you know, to your doodlings as such.  It’s inevitable in a discussion of Zizek, we’re agreed.

But really I’m in pretty much the same boat as Anthony here, in that I respect you for your remarkable openness to the “continental” or phenomenological tradition, given the current conditions and trends of the academy.  Only I know that if I were to risk appearing, for whatever reason, as an authority on Zizek, I would merely expect to be fielding questions about those thinkers Zizek obviously most thoroughly obsesses about.  I realize Lacan’s name is sort of like “Waldo” around here, a figure maybe defined largely by the numerous fingers simultaneously pointing at him, but Badiou and Vattimo (and perhaps Baudrillard) and certainly Derrida (though you’re right insofar as Z. deliberately misreads him) among others are also pretty much fair game, it seems to me, for helping us understand what Z. is all about.  That is, if one wishes to be as charitable as possible, assuming of course that there is some benefit in that.  Which seems to imply, to me anyway, that the burden of proof is on those who would speak authoritatively in the first place to show why it is that they are authoritative.  Do you disagree?

As for playing in backyards, Sean seems to be throwing yarn all over the neighborhood.  I do not envy you the job of cleaning up after him.

One reason why I find it hard to answer your questions is that they chiefly amount to complaints about what I haven’t done yet. This is reasonable up to a point, but one would want these complaints supplemented with reasons to think what has happened already is wrong, or at least on the wrong track.

Fair enough.  My comments were never intended to be conclusive in that direction, though I thought they were sometimes a kind of start.  As far as I can tell, that passage from _The Fragile Absolute_, although it looks like some of it got mangled, relates rather directly to the various discussions of the ‘event’ as well as of apocalypsia and Foucault’s politics.  But this is a serious book deserving of more patient attention, more serious than I could hope to give it right now, and especially in a blog comment.  This is an uncompromising position on my part, I’m afraid.

whatever standard of acceptable rhetorical ratcheting up up and up you choose to impose on me, please try to be consistent in applying it to yourself.

Also fair enough.  You are sincerely more than welcome to come join us for some penne rigate, which is what we’re having now, or anytime, if that last visit to America didn’t suffice to scare you away forever.

By Matt on 10/09/05 at 04:43 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Forget Zizek

http://zlomislic.blogspot.com/2006/07/to-beyond-lacan-and-zizeks_115383870544492449.html

By Mark Zlomislic on 07/26/06 at 04:14 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Add a comment:

Name:
Email:
Location:
URL:

 

Remember my personal information

Notify me of follow-up comments?

Please enter the word you see in the image below: