Zizek

Halligan naomi at halligan.demon.co.uk
Thu Feb 28 14:31:03 MST 2002


to reply to LP's initial post --
.
>If nothing else, his embrace of the terminally self-important and
>boring Reaganite filmmaker David Lynch should have made him the
>laughing-stock of the intelligentsia, both professional and organic.
>Perhaps it was a calculated bid to one-up a French academy that had
>attached itself to Jerry Lewis.
.
I would say that lynch represents an american equiv to the film-makers zizek
typically turns to: those dissenters and problematisers within the (soviet)
system: tarkovsky, kieslowski. or within the (german, mid-1930s) system -
all three systems united by the stagnent nature of their politics. this
means that they can be used to gauge the limits and use of a dissenting-
"liberal" outlook. But more than that, isn't zizek, by "turning to lynch"
seeking to short-circuit elitism in cultural studies? I'd imagine
intelligentsia would have more of a problem with this.
.
>In "The Art of the Ridiculous Sublime," Zizek solemnly announces
>that:

>"Lenin liked to point out that one could often get crucial insights
>into one's enemies from the perceptions of intelligent enemies. So,
>since the present essay attempts a Lacanian reading of David Lynch's
>'Lost Highway,' it may be useful to start with a reference to
>'post-theory,' the recent cognitivist orientation of cinema studies
>that establishes its identity by a thorough rejection of Lacanian
>studies."

>Needless to say, with this on page one, a sensible reader would take
>the first exit off this highway and put the book in the trashcan.
.
I'm not sure what your beef with the above is - but the move against
"post-theory" defines much of zizek's writings. He diagnoses post-theory as
a return-to-basics movement in academia, post-1989. as zizek sees it, it
resulted from the bruising "the left" got from their unhappy encounter with
theory and, post-1989, post-theory offers the opportunity to refuse further
ideological commitment. Not to embrace "post-theory" would be to accept that
all the ideological positions taken during the 1980s (and the rise of the
new right) were effectively ineffective. Zizek enters into a dialectic with
"post-theory" as much as dismissing it - trying to configure it in such a
way that it can be deemed "useful"
.
>For reasons having something to do either with the zeitgeist of the
>post-Cold War era or something they put into the drinking water on
>certain prestigious college campuses, Zizek has emerged as a kind of
>standard-bearer for the woozy, academic, post-Marxist left.
.
he's been fairly outspoken against the war against afghanistan. Could this
be a part of his appeal? Where are the american "name" academics who are
speaking out (ie zizek's equivs)? As far as europeans are concerned, this
seems to be the position:
http://www.propositionsonline.com/Fighting_For/fighting_for.html
.

>Turning to the interview itself, we discover that the big problem
>with Chomsky is not just that he doesn't know how to connect Lacan to
>Peewee Herman. Rather it is that he is too preoccupied with "facts".
>Henwood poses the question to Zizek:

>"Chomsky and people like him seem to think that if we just got the
>facts out there, things would almost take care of themselves. Why is
>this wrong? Why aren't 'the facts' enough?"

>Zizek's reply is extraordinary:

>"Let me give you a very naive answer. I think that basically the
>facts are already known. Let's take Chomsky's analyses of how the CIA
>intervened in Nicaragua. OK, (he provides) a lot of details, yes, but
>did I learn anything fundamentally new? It's exactly what I'd
>expected: the CIA was playing a very dirty game. Of course it's more
>convincing if you learn the dirty details. But I don't think that we
>really learned anything dramatically new there. I don't think that
>merely 'knowing the facts' can really change people's perceptions."
.
this argument is also advanced by umberto eco (somewhere in "travels in
hyper-reality"). Eco notes that the "dream" of the 60s radicals was to
unearth the facts, to expose the workings of the system (a la Godard in his
film). but what is assumed here is that the facts themselves will then
somehow offer the ammunition to radically change the unsatisfactory reality.
Eco and Zizek question this. Perhaps the facts are, in a way, neither here
nor there - what matters (ie where there is possibility for change) is the
system / the context in which they appear / how they appear / why they
appear. After all, "facts" are used in relation to sept 11 to claim that
"everything has changed". surely few on the left can accept this,
understanding that sept 11 only hastened things already in the works as far
as the bush administration was concerned? Likewise, after 1968, godard
developed a kind of maoist discourse - that facts weren't enough in
themselves, but that the attempt to pin down all facets of oppression was
more revealing.
.
Nor is zizek the only one to see in chomsky the limitations of
left-liberalism.
Cf: http://www.wsws.org/public_html/prioriss/iwb9-25/chomsky.htm
"Noam Chomsky: from antiwar protester to advocate of US aggression"
.
At a time when left-liberalism is seemingly pro-war too (from a european
perspective), surely it is time to note that chomsky isn't helping matters -
can we not say that, ultimately, chomsky fails to draw the final conclusion?
(ie to make a radical political commitment).
.
This strikes me as very true of "manufacturing consent": he diagnoses
brilliantly. he'll find the symptoms, but he can't/won't identify the actual
illness. (But no-one here is tossing the baby out with the bathwater!)
.
>In reality, the big problem has always been the lack of facts in
>American society on questions such as these. Mostly, what the Central
>American solidarity movement had to contend with was the immense
>propaganda campaign against the FMLN in El Salvador and the FSLN in
>Nicaragua. People like myself joined CISPES or built Tecnica to help
>counter this disinformation campaign that cost the lives of so many
>people. When you involve thousands and then millions of people in
>vast movements opposed to the Vietnam War, the wars in Central
>America or the wars going on today, much of the effort revolves
>around getting the truth out.
.
but I don't see Zizek as against such a notion per se.
.
(I thought I would leave the rest of your post, if you don't mind, as it
invites specifics about the wars in yugoslavia, and parallels re lenin -
which has been done elsewhere, as you note)
.

ben






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