Zizek on Lafitte & Marx by way of Jameson (posted to LBO-Talk by Michael Hoover)

Louis Proyect lnp3 at SPAMpanix.com
Tue May 16 13:56:15 MDT 2000

In an appendix to last essay of _The Metastases of Enjoyment_ (Verso, 1994)
that the author calls 'A Self-Interview,' Slavoj Zizek writes following
(pp. 194-195):

"...Perhaps the most interesting feature of Derrida's approach to Heidegger
is the way he 'combines the incompatible' - here Derrida is postmodern in
the best sense of the term.  As Fredric Jameson pointed out, one of the key
features of the 'postmodern sensitivity' consists in bringing face to face
entities which, although contemporary, belong to different historical epochs.

"One of the mythical figures of the old American South is the pirate Jean
Lafitte: his name is associated with his and General Andrew Jackson's
defence of New Orleans, with the buccaneer romantic, and so on - what is
less well known is that in his old age, when he retired to England, Lafitte
made friends with Marx and Engels, and even financed the first English
translation of the *Communist Manifesto*. This image of Lafitte and Marx
walking together in Soho, a nonsensical short circuit of two entirely
different universes, is eminently postmodern.   What Derrida does to
Heidegger is, in a way, quite similar: he often brings Heidegger face to
face with the 'vulgar', 'ontic' problematic - he links the Heideggerian
gift of *es gibt* with the 'economic' problematic' of the gift in Marcel

Beyond obvious: all analogies are suspect and some more so than others,
isn't above spurious use of Jameson (or does no such use exist anymore when
nothing is genuine)?  Where is 'postmodern sensitivity' found in J? As
Zizek describes it, this condition appears to be the pastiche of film like
*Body Heat* with its 1930s/1980s motif.  If, for sake of discussion, that
is accurate association, how is it applicable to Lafitte-Marx anecdote?
Moreover, is anecdote - admittedly interesting - true (or should that not
be concern anymore when nothing is true)?

I was in New Orleans recently where the specter of Jean Lafitte is
everywhere - parks, businesses, restaurants, a town, etc. are named after
him. Seems he died in 1820s (there is some debate as to whether this was in
1826 or 1829) in Yucatan peninsula of Mexico.  In other words, he never
retired to England, he never befriended M&E, he never financed *CM*.

Now, perhaps, we have encountered what Greg Ulmer calls 'mystory',
collection of set of elements gathered together temporarily in order to
represent nexus of history, politics, language, thought, etc. (_Teletheory:
Grammatology in the Age of Video_).  And maybe anecdote is akin to Michael
Ryan's fictional artist Fiona Burns in his essay *Neo-Political Art After
Post-Modernism* (_Politics and Culture: Working Hypotheses for a
Post-Revolutionary Society_) that explores boundary between materiality and
culture.  Or maybe readers have taken something that Zizek made up to be
historically accurate.  After all, he doesn't present anecdote as fictional
truth (or should that be truthful fiction?) nor does he cite source.
Perhaps reason that few people know about Lafitte-Marx relationship is that
one never existed and only Soho stroll two made together was in Z's head.

Louis Proyect

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