Slavoj Žižek

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You can find in President Trump’s support the desire for an illusory America that will never be. The very complex problems which the candidate is ill-prepared to address have been dutifully avoided. There’s no discussion of automation vanishing jobs. There’s no talk about how China is the world leader in cancer rates and air pollution as partial payment for its hellbent shift into capitalism. You’ll hear from Trump that Dubai has such beautiful, modern airports and lavish golf courses because that state’s leaders are much smarter than ours are, but there’s no mention of their willingness to use quasi-slave labor. 

In a London Review of Books piece about the ongoing refugee crisis, Slavoj Žižek examines the need for a nouveau forms of slavery in the contemporary global economy. These people are still cheaper than machines, for now.

An excerpt:

New forms of slavery are the hallmark of these wealthy countries: millions of immigrant workers on the Arabian peninsula are deprived of elementary civil rights and freedoms; in Asia, millions of workers live in sweatshops organised like concentration camps. But there are examples closer to home. On 1 December 2013 a Chinese-owned clothing factory in Prato, near Florence, burned down, killing seven workers trapped in an improvised cardboard dormitory. ‘No one can say they are surprised at this,’ Roberto Pistonina, a local trade unionist, remarked, ‘because everyone has known for years that, in the area between Florence and Prato, hundreds if not thousands of people are living and working in conditions of near slavery.’ There are more than four thousand Chinese-owned businesses in Prato, and thousands of Chinese immigrants are believed to be living in the city illegally, working as many as 16 hours a day for a network of workshops and wholesalers.

The new slavery is not confined to the suburbs of Shanghai, or Dubai, or Qatar. It is in our midst; we just don’t see it, or pretend not to see it. Sweated labour is a structural necessity of today’s global capitalism. Many of the refugees entering Europe will become part of its growing precarious workforce, in many cases at the expense of local workers, who react to the threat by joining the latest wave of anti-immigrant populism.

In escaping their war-torn homelands, the refugees are possessed by a dream. Refugees arriving in southern Italy do not want to stay there: many of them are trying to get to Scandinavia. The thousands of migrants in Calais are not satisfied with France: they are ready to risk their lives to enter the UK. Tens of thousands of refugees in Balkan countries are desperate to get to Germany. They assert their dreams as their unconditional right, and demand from the European authorities not only proper food and medical care but also transportation to the destination of their choice. There is something enigmatically utopian in this demand: as if it were the duty of Europe to realise their dreams – dreams which, incidentally, are out of reach of most Europeans (surely a good number of Southern and Eastern Europeans would prefer to live in Norway too?). It is precisely when people find themselves in poverty, distress and danger – when we’d expect them to settle for a minimum of safety and wellbeing – that their utopianism becomes most intransigent. But the hard truth to be faced by the refugees is that ‘there is no Norway,’ even in Norway.•


In his new London Review of Books piece, Slavoj Žižek argues that “China is full of antagonisms and barely controlled instabilities that continually threaten to explode.” Maybe. It’s certainly the largest experiment in world history in its mélange of capitalism, communism, nationalism and authoritarianism. Can the centre hold? Does its relative cultural seclusion from the larger world ultimately support or damn the whole enterprise? An excerpt:

Everyone can be a socialist today, even Bill Gates: it suffices to profess the need for some kind of harmonious social unity, for a common good and for the care of the poor and downtrodden. As Otto Weininger put it more than a hundred years ago, socialism is Aryan and communism is Jewish.

An exemplary case of today’s ‘socialism’ is China, where the Communist Party is engaged in a campaign of self-legitimisation which promotes three theses: 1) Communist Party rule alone can guarantee successful capitalism; 2) the rule of the atheist Communist Party alone can guarantee authentic religious freedom; and 3) continuing Communist Party rule alone can guarantee that China will be a society of Confucian conservative values (social harmony, patriotism, moral order). These aren’t simply nonsensical paradoxes. The reasoning might go as follows: 1) without the party’s stabilising power, capitalist development would explode into a chaos of riots and protests; 2) religious factional struggles would disturb social stability; and 3) unbridled hedonist individualism would corrode social harmony. The third point is crucial, since what lies in the background is a fear of the corrosive influence of Western ‘universal values’: freedom, democracy, human rights and hedonist individualism. The ultimate enemy is not capitalism as such but the rootless Western culture threatening China through the free flow of the internet. It must be fought with Chinese patriotism; even religion should be ‘sinicised’ to ensure social stability. A Communist Party official in Xinjiang, Zhang Chunxian, said recently that while ‘hostile forces’ are stepping up their infiltration, religions must work under socialism to serve economic development, social harmony, ethnic unity and the unification of the country: ‘Only when one is a good citizen can one be a good believer.’•


Capitalism is good except when it’s bad–and vice versa. It’s the best machinery we’ve come up with to grow wealthier in the aggregate, and it’s still quite a shitstorm. 2008 was only the most recent reminder. Will political tumult caused by technological employment force it to be seriously moderated? In a Spiegel interview conducted by Romain Leick, Marxist jokester Slavoj Žižek sees gathering clouds in the Western political structure-democracy, namely–but he probably always does. The opening:


Mr. Žižek, the financial and economic crisis showed just how vulnerable the free market system can be. You have made it your task to examine the contradictions of contemporary capitalism. Are you anticipating a new revolution?

Slavoj Žižek: 

Unfortunately not.


But you would like to experience one? Are you still a communist?

Slavoj Žižek: 

Many consider me to be a crazy Marxist who’s waiting for the end of time. I may be a very eccentric, but I’m not a madman. I am a communist for lack of something better, out of despair over the situation in Europe. Six months ago, I was in South Korea to gave talks on the crisis in global capitalism, the usual you know, bla bla bla. Then the audience started to laugh and said: What are you talking about? Just look at us — China, South Korea, Singapore, Vietnam — we’re doing very well economically. So who is that has slipped into crisis? It’s you in Western Europe — or, more precisely, in parts of Western Europe.


Well, it’s not quite as simple as that.

Slavoj Žižek: 

Still, there’s some truth to it. Why do we Europeans feel that our unfortunate situation is a full-fledged crisis? I think what we are feeling is not a question of yes or no to capitalism, but that of the future of our Western democracy. Something dark is forming on the horizon and the first wind storms have already reached us.•

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I can understand Slavoj Žižek looking at China and seeing capitalism stripped of democracy as an impressive beast, but the same was said of Fascism, even Nazism, in the 1930s. They were machines, many thought–even many American business leaders–which could not be stopped. Those states were driven by madmen and China is not, but perhaps there’s ultimately something antithetical to the human spirit embedded inside them all. Well, we shall see. From a recent Žižek address transcribed at Disinformation:

Well people often ask me how can you be so stupid and still proclaim yourself a communist. What do you mean by this? Well, I have always to emphasize that first I am well aware that let’s call it like this – the twentieth century’s over. Which means all not only communists solution but all the big leftist projects of the twentieth century failed. Not only did Stalinist communism although there its failure is much more paradoxical. Most of the countries where communists are still in power like China, Vietnam – their communists in power appear to be the most efficient managers of a very wildly productive capitalism. So okay, that one failed. I think that also and here I in a very respectful way disagree with your – by your I mean American neo-Keynesian leftists, Krugman, Stiglitz and so on. I also think that this Keynesian welfare state model is passé. In the conditions of today’s global economy it no longer works. For the welfare state to work you need a strong nation state which can impose a certain fiscal politics and so on and so on. When you have global market it doesn’t work. And the third point which is most problematic for my friends, the third leftist vision which is deep in the heart of all leftists that I know – this idea of critically rejecting alienated representative democracy and arguing for local grass root democracy where it’s not that you just delegate to the others. Your representatives to act for you, but people immediately engage in locally managing their affairs and so on.

I think this is a nice idea as far as it goes but it’s not the solution. It’s a very limited one. And if I may be really evil here I frankly I wouldn’t like to live in a stupid society where I would have to be all the time engaged in local communitarian politics and so on and so on. My idea is to live in a society where some invisible alienated machinery takes care of things so that I can do whatever I want – watch movies, read and write philosophical books and so on. But so I’m well aware that in all its versions radical left projects of the twentieth century came to an end and for one decade maybe we were all Fukuyamaists for the nineties. By Fukuyamaism I mean the idea that basically we found if not the best formula at least the least bad formula. Liberal democratic capitalism with elements of rebel state and so on and so on. And even the left played this game. You know we were fighting for less racism, women’s right, gay rights, whatever tolerance. But basically we accepted the system. I think and even Fukuyama himself is no longer a Fukuyamaist as I know that if there is a lesson of September 11 if other event is that no we don’t have the answer. That not only is liberal democratic capitalism not the universal model and is just a time of slow historical progress for it to be accepted everywhere. But again try now in Singapore and other examples of very successful economies today demonstrate that this, let’s call it ironically eternal marriage between democracy and capitalism it’s coming to an end.

What we are more and more getting today is a capitalism which is brutally efficient but it no longer needs democracy for its functioning.•


The opening of Terry Eagleton’s Guardian review of the two most-recent books (Absolute Recoil and Trouble in Paradise) from the always-unplugged fountain of Slavoj Žižek, that mixed blessing:

“It is said that Jean-Paul Sartre turned white-faced with excitement when a colleague arrived hotfoot from Germany with the news that one could make philosophy out of the ashtray. In these two new books, Slavoj Žižekphilosophises in much the same spirit about sex, swearing, decaffeinated coffee, vampires, Henry Kissinger, The Sound of Music, the Muslim Brotherhood, the South Korean suicide rate and a good deal more. If there seems no end to his intellectual promiscuity, it is because he suffers from a rare affliction known as being interested in everything. In Britain, philosophers tend to divide between academics who write for each other and meaning-of-life merchants who beam their reflections at the general public. Part of Žižek’s secret is that he is both at once: a formidably erudite scholar well-versed in Kant and Heidegger who also has a consuming passion for the everyday. He is equally at home with Hegel and Hitchcock, the Fall from Eden and the fall of Mubarak. If he knows about Wagner and Schoenberg, he is also an avid consumer of vampire movies and detective fiction. A lot of his readers have learned to understand Freud or Nietzsche by viewing them through the lens of Jaws or Mary Poppins.

Academic philosophers can be obscure, whereas popularisers aim to be clear. With his urge to dismantle oppositions, Žižek has it both ways here.”

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I disagree with that holy fool Slavoj Žižek on some issues, but I agree with him that philosophy is far from dead, our technological and economic situations requiring ethical speculation more than ever. From his Guardian AMA:


What is the future of philosophy – both within academia and in the so-called ‘collective consciousness’?

Slavoj Žižek:

I think philosophy will become more important than ever, even for so-called “ordinary people.” Why? The incredible social dynamics of today’s capitalism, as well as scientific and technological breakthroughs, changed our situation so much that old ethical and religious systems no longer function. Think about biogenetic interventions, which may even change your character, how your psyche works. This was no even a possibility considered in traditional ethical systems, which means that we all in a way have to think. We have to make decisions. We cannot rely on old religious and ethical formulas. Like: are you for or against biogenetic interventions? In order to decide, to take a stance, you have somehow implicitly to address questions like: do I have a free will? Am I really responsible for my acts? And so on. So I think that 21st century will be the century of philosophy.•


I didn’t need Slavoj Žižek’s New York Times op-ed to tell me that ISIS isn’t a group of commendable anti-colonialism freedom fighters but just a band of gutter-level losers–thanks for the 411, Doctor IQ–but the theorist does make a good point about the fugazi fundamentalism of the Rolex-wearing, new-media savvy savages. These beheaders aren’t emblematic of the roughly 1.5 billion Muslims who are peaceful, productive people all over the world, but are instead a perverted pastiche of the present and the past. From Zizek:

“The well-known photo of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the ISIS leader, with an exquisite Swiss watch on his arm, is here emblematic: ISIS is well organized in web propaganda as well as financial dealings, although these ultra-modern practices are used to propagate and enforce an ideologico-political vision that is not so much conservative as a desperate move to fix clear hierarchic delimitations. However, we should not forget that even this image of a strictly disciplined and regulated fundamentalist organization is not without its ambiguities: is religious oppression not (more than) supplemented by the way local ISIS military units seem to function? While the official ISIS ideology rails against Western permissiveness, the daily practice of the ISIS gangs includes full-scale grotesque orgies, including robberies, gang rapes, torture and murder of infidels.”


In his Guardian defense of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, Slavoj Žižek takes things to extremes, as is he is wont to do. An excerpt:

“In a country such as China the limitations of freedom are clear to everyone, with no illusions about it. In the US, however, formal freedoms are guaranteed, so that most individuals experience their lives as free and are not even aware of the extent to which they are controlled by state mechanisms. Whistleblowers do something much more important than stating the obvious by way of denouncing the openly oppressive regimes: they render public the unfreedom that underlies the very situation in which we experience ourselves as free.

Back in May 2002, it was reported that scientists at New York University had attached a computer chip able to transmit elementary signals directly to a rat’s brain – enabling scientists to control the rat’s movements by means of a steering mechanism, as used in a remote-controlled toy car. For the first time, the free will of a living animal was taken over by an external machine.

How did the unfortunate rat experience its movements, which were effectively decided from outside? Was it totally unaware that its movements were being steered? Maybe therein lies the difference between Chinese citizens and us, free citizens of western, liberal countries: the Chinese human rats are at least aware they are controlled, while we are the stupid rats strolling around unaware of how our movements are monitored.”

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In a Guardian article, that holy fool Slavoj Žižek argues that it’s the unwritten rules that make for a safe planet, and the new world order of the 21st century has torn that fabric, leaving a global village that’s disconnected on a social level. Hence, Russia invades Ukraine as the world tries to formulate a reaction to a former superpower trying to clumsily relive its past glory. An excerpt:

“The ‘American century’ is overand we have entered a period in which multiple centres of global capitalism have been forming. In the US, Europe, China and maybe Latin America, too, capitalist systems have developed with specific twists: the US stands for neoliberal capitalism, Europe for what remains of the welfare state, China for authoritarian capitalism, Latin America for populist capitalism. After the attempt by the US to impose itself as the sole superpower – the universal policeman – failed, there is now the need to establish the rules of interaction between these local centres as regards their conflicting interests.

This is why our times are potentially more dangerous than they may appear. During the cold war, the rules of international behaviour were clear, guaranteed by the Mad-ness – mutually assured destruction – of the superpowers. When the Soviet Union violated these unwritten rules by invading Afghanistan, it paid dearly for this infringement. The war in Afghanistan was the beginning of its end. Today, the old and new superpowers are testing each other, trying to impose their own version of global rules, experimenting with them through proxies – which are, of course, other, small nations and states.”


In a new Guardian piece, Slavoj Žižek, that player, links the current U.S. government shutdown to the 2008 economic collapse, noting the similarly unholy alliance between working-class protesters and the wealthy interests who find them useful:

“In April 2009 I was resting in a hotel room in Syracuse, hopping between two channels: a PBS documentary on Pete Seeger, the great American country singer of the left; and a Fox News report on the anti-tax Tea Party, with a country singer performing a populist song about how Washington is taxing hard-working ordinary people to finance the Wall Street financiers. There was a weird similarity between the two singers: both were articulating an anti-establishment, populist complaint against the exploitative rich and their state; both were calling for radical measures, including civil disobedience.

It was another painful reminder that today’s radical-populist right reminds us of the old radical-populist left (are today’s Christian survivalist-fundamentalist groups with their half-illegal status not organised like Black Panthers back in the 1960s?). It is a masterful ideological manipulation: the Tea Party agenda is fundamentally irrational in that it wants to protect the interests of hardworking ordinary people by privileging the ‘exploitative rich,’ thus literally countering their own interests.

This twisted ideology is also behind the current federal government shutdown in the US. An opinion poll at the end of June 2012 showed that a majority of Americans, while opposing Obamacare, strongly support most of its provisions. Here we encounter Tea Party ideology at its purest: the majority wants to have its ideological cake and eat the real baking. They want the real benefits of healthcare reform, while rejecting its ideological form, which they perceive as a threat to the ‘freedom of choice.’ They reject the concept of fruit, but they want apples, plums and strawberries.”


In a new London Review of Books essay, Slavoj Žižek, that holy fool, counters the idea that recent global unrest and mass protests are isolated incidents, though his definitions of the Occupy movement and capitalism may vary from yours. An excerpt:

“In 2011, when protests were erupting across Europe and the Middle East, many insisted that they shouldn’t be treated as instances of a single global movement. Instead, they argued, each was a response to a specific situation. In Egypt, the protesters wanted what in other countries the Occupy movement was protesting against: ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy’. Even among Muslim countries, there were crucial differences: the Arab Spring in Egypt was a protest against a corrupt authoritarian pro-Western regime; the Green Revolution in Iran that began in 2009 was against authoritarian Islamism. It is easy to see how such a particularisation of protest appeals to defenders of the status quo: there is no threat against the global order as such, just a series of separate local problems.

Global capitalism is a complex process which affects different countries in different ways. What unites the protests, for all their multifariousness, is that they are all reactions against different facets of capitalist globalisation. The general tendency of today’s global capitalism is towards further expansion of the market, creeping enclosure of public space, reduction of public services (healthcare, education, culture), and increasingly authoritarian political power. It is in this context that Greeks are protesting against the rule of international financial capital and their own c.orrupt and inefficient state, which is less and less able to provide basic social services. It is in this context too that Turks are protesting against the commercialisation of public space and against religious authoritarianism; that Egyptians are protesting against a regime supported by the Western powers; that Iranians are protesting against corruption and religious fundamentalism, and so on. None of these protests can be reduced to a single issue. They all deal with a specific combination of at least two issues, one economic (from corruption to inefficiency to capitalism itself), the other politico-ideological (from the demand for democracy to the demand that conventional multi-party democracy be overthrown). The same holds for the Occupy movement. Beneath the profusion of (often confused) statements, the movement had two basic features: first, discontent with capitalism as a system, not just with its particular local corruptions; second, an awareness that the institutionalised form of representative multi-party democracy is not equipped to fight capitalist excess, i.e. democracy has to be reinvented.

Just because the underlying cause of the protests is global capitalism, that doesn’t mean the only solution is directly to overthrow it. Nor is it viable to pursue the pragmatic alternative, which is to deal with individual problems and wait for a radical transformation. That ignores the fact that global capitalism is necessarily inconsistent: market freedom goes hand in hand with US support for its own farmers; preaching democracy goes hand in hand with supporting Saudi Arabia. This inconsistency opens up a space for political intervention: wherever the global capitalist system is forced to violate its own rules, there is an opportunity to insist that it follow those rules. To demand consistency at strategically selected points where the system cannot afford to be consistent is to put pressure on the entire system. The art of politics lies in making particular demands which, while thoroughly realistic, strike at the core of hegemonic ideology and imply much more radical change. Such demands, while feasible and legitimate, are de facto impossible. Obama’s proposal for universal healthcare was such a case, which is why reactions to it were so violent.”


Slavoj Žižek, briilliant and buffoonish, offers a tour of his humble abode. The kitchen, in particular, is special. (Thanks Biblioklept.)


Slavoj Žižek, that holy fool, on stage reacting to an assortment of stimuli.


"Some of them love human dignity so much that they are ready to legalize torture to defend it." (Image by Ggia.)

The opening of Slavoj Žižek’s new essay about Greece in the London Review of Books, which articulates how we often sacrifice our principles during a fight to preserve those very same principles:

“Imagine a scene from a dystopian movie that depicts our society in the near future. Uniformed guards patrol half-empty downtown streets at night, on the prowl for immigrants, criminals and vagrants. Those they find are brutalised. What seems like a fanciful Hollywood image is a reality in today’s Greece. At night, black-shirted vigilantes from the Holocaust-denying ne0-fascist Golden Dawn movement – which won 7 per cent of the vote in the last round of elections, and had the support, it’s said, of 50 per cent of the Athenian police – have been patrolling the street and beating up all the immigrants they can find: Afghans, Pakistanis, Algerians. So this is how Europe is defended in the spring of 2012.

The trouble with defending European civilisation against the immigrant threat is that the ferocity of the defence is more of a threat to ‘civilisation’ than any number of Muslims. With friendly defenders like this, Europe needs no enemies. A hundred years ago, G.K. Chesterton articulated the deadlock in which critics of religion find themselves: ‘Men who begin to fight the Church for the sake of freedom and humanity end by flinging away freedom and humanity if only they may fight the Church … The secularists have not wrecked divine things; but the secularists have wrecked secular things, if that is any comfort to them.’ Many liberal warriors are so eager to fight anti-democratic fundamentalism that they end up dispensing with freedom and democracy if only they may fight terror. If the ‘terrorists’ are ready to wreck this world for love of another, our warriors against terror are ready to wreck democracy out of hatred for the Muslim other. Some of them love human dignity so much that they are ready to legalise torture to defend it. It’s an inversion of the process by which fanatical defenders of religion start out by attacking contemporary secular culture and end up sacrificing their own religious credentials in their eagerness to eradicate the aspects of secularism they hate.” (Thanks Browser.)


Slavoj Žižek, genius and fool, using questionable geological evidence to make a case for humans embracing technology over nature.


Slavoj Žižek, that provocateur and performance artist, gave a speech at Occupy Wall Street. Thankfully, his rhetoric was short on his usual bullshit (smirking apologias for Stalin, for example) and long on common sense. The speech’s opening from the full transcript provided by Sarah Shin at Verso:

“Don’t fall in love with yourselves, with the nice time we are having here. Carnivals come cheap—the true test of their worth is what remains the day after, how our normal daily life will be changed. Fall in love with hard and patient work—we are the beginning, not the end. Our basic message is: the taboo is broken, we do not live in the best possible world, we are allowed and obliged even to think about alternatives. There is a long road ahead, and soon we will have to address the truly difficult questions—questions not about what we do not want, but about what we DO want. What social organization can replace the existing capitalism? What type of new leaders we need? The XXth century alternatives obviously did not work.

So do not blame people and their attitudes: the problem is not corruption or greed, the problem is the system that pushes you to be corrupt. The solution is not ‘Main Street, not Wall Street,’ but to change the system where main street cannot function without Wall street. Beware not only of enemies, but also of false friends who pretend to support us, but are already working hard to dilute our protest. In the same way we get coffee without caffeine, beer without alcohol, ice-cream without fat, they will try to make us into a harmless moral protest. But the reason we are here is that we had enough of the world where to recycle your Coke cans, to give a couple of dollars for charity, or to buy Starbucks cappuccino where 1% goes for the Third World troubles is enough to make us feel good. After outsourcing work and torture, after the marriage agencies started to outsource even our dating, we see that for a long time we were allowing our political engagements also to be outsourced—we want them back.

They will tell us we are un-American. But when conservative fundamentalists tell you that America is a Christian nation, remember what Christianity is: the Holy Spirit, the free egalitarian community of believers united by love. We here are the Holy Spirit, while on Wall Street they are pagans worshipping false idols.

They will tell us we are violent, that our very language is violent: occupation, and so on. Yes we are violent, but only in the sense in which Mahathma Gandhi was violent. We are violent because we want to put a stop on the way things go—but what is this purely symbolic violence compared to the violence needed to sustain the smooth functioning of the global capitalist system?”


Žižek at Occupy Wall Street:

Žižek holding forth in a garbage dump, in Astra Taylor’s Examined Life:

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"He owns neither jacket nor tie." (Image by Andy Miah.)

From “The Marx Brother,” Rebecca Mead’s smart 2003 profile of superstar Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek:

“Zizek is bearded and bearish, and restricts his wardrobe to proletarian shirts and bluejeans, with an occasional excursion into corduroy. He owns neither jacket nor tie. He speaks six languages, is made uncomfortable by conversational lapses, and avoids them through the ample use of animated monologue. He speaks English at high speed in an accent recalling that of Latka, the character of indeterminate Mitteleuropean origin played by Andy Kaufman on Taxi. If, in the progress of intellectual fashions, Jacques Derrida’s appeal was that he was fascinatingly difficult, and Michel Foucault’s was that he was sexily rigorous, then Zizek’s lies in his accessible absurdity. Unlike earlier academic superstars, however, Zizek has no disciples: there is no School of Zizek, no graduate students writing Zizekian readings of the novels of Henry James or of Star Trek for their theses. Such a thing would be impossible, since one of the characteristics of Zizek’s work is that he applies his critical methodology even to the results of his own critical inquiry, which is another way of saying that he contradicts himself all the time. Eric Santner, who teaches at the University of Chicago and is a dose friend of Zizek, says, ‘One of his fundamental gestures is this: he will present a problem, or a text, then produce the reading that you have come to expect from him, and then he will say, ‘I am tempted to think it is just the opposite.'” To a generation of students raised on Seinfeld, Zizek’s examination of the minutiae of popular culture – his observation, for example, that when he sees a tube of toothpaste advertising ‘thirty per cent free’ he wants to cut off the free third and put it in his pocket – could not be more familiar, and neither could the ironic, self-undermining gesture. As Zizek might put it, he may appear to be a serious leftist intellectual, but is it not the case that he is in fact a comedian?”


Zizek gets philosophical about toilets:

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"His last wife was an Argentine lingerie model, 30 years his junior." (Image by Andy Miah.)

A very entertaining douchebag who needs to be smacked with both hands, the Slovenian philosopher and Leftist cultural theorist Slavoj Žižek is the subject of a profile by Philipp Oehmke on the Spiegel website. An excerpt:

“He gives more than 200 lectures a year and has held visiting professorships at elite American universities. He recently spoke to an audience of 2,000 people in Buenos Aires. He is the subject of two documentary films, and in another film he interprets movies from a psychoanalytical point of view as he speeds across the ocean in a motorboat. There are Žižek T-shirts and Žižek records, and there is a Žižek club and an international Žižek journal.

His repertoire is a mix of Lacanian psychoanalysis and Hegel’s idealist philosophy–of film analysis, criticism of democracy, capitalism and ideology, and an occasionally authoritarian Marxism paired with everyday observations. He explains the ontological essence of the Germans, French and Americans on the basis of their toilet habits and the resulting relationship with their fecal matter, and he initially reacts to criticism with a cheerful ‘Fuck you!’–pronounced in hard Slavic consonants. He tells colleagues he values but who advocate theories contrary to his own that they should prepare to enter the gulag when he, Žižek, comes into power. He relishes the shudder that the word gulag elicits.”

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New DVD: Examined Life

Slovenian theorist Slavoj Žižek is down in the dump in "Examined Life."

Following up the heady burst of fun that was her 2005 documentary Zizek!, filmmaker Astra Taylor keeps one foot planted firmly on campus with Examined Life. an interesting investiagtion into the minds of eight diverse academics.

Taylor presents a platform for ideas to Cornel West, Kwame Anthony Appiah, Martha Nussbaum, Michael Hardt, Judith Butler, Peter Singer, Avital Ronell and Slavoj Žižek. Because of the static nature of talking about thinking, she has her subjects constantly walking, riding, rowing or rolling, as they delve into a variety of philosophical ideas, from cosmopolitanism to ecology.

While these thinkers are all superstars behind the ivy, they don’t all translate equally well to this format. For some reason, Hardt scolds himself for discussing the possibility of revolution while he’s in Central Park, as if it were an exclusive piece of land instead of a public venue that has served people from every economic strata. That park is one the egalitarian accomplishments of our society, not a place of aristocratic shame as he seems to believe. Others like Singer, Butler and Žižek make far more interesting points.

It would appear that the director had a little bit more time and money for her new film than she did for Zizek!, and she uses it well, showing off a strong sense of composition that was impossible to display with the breakneck schedule of her first feature. Taylor is growing as a filmmaker, and even though she might not be a hard-nosed interviewer as of yet, she knows how to provoke thought.

Read other Film posts.

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