Zizek

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Thu Feb 28 16:20:57 MST 2002


On Thu, 28 Feb 2002 21:31:03 -0000, Ben wrote:
>"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.

Frankly, I have never read an entire book of Zizek, only articles.
(My writeup of his NLR article on Bukharin can be found at:
http://www.columbia.edu/~lnp3/mydocs/modernism/Zizek.htm) Of course,
I am aware that Zizek's stock in trade is popular culture. However,
my affinities are with CLR James or George Orwell, only taking them
as a point of departure.

>I'm not sure what your beef with the above is -
>but the move against "post-theory" defines much
>of zizek's writings.

I wasn't aware that there was a need for either "theory" or "post
theory". In general I recommend inquisitive young radicals to study
things like the role of coffee production in the radicalization of
Colombian society, or why airline deregulation led to attacks on the
trade unions. If one is interested in intellectual stimulation for
the sake of intellectual stimulation, I wouldn't try to dissuade
somebody from reading Zizek or Gayatri Spivak. For myself, however, I
much prefer doing those Guardian cryptic crossword puzzles while
listening to late Scriabin.

>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.

My recommendation to them would be a mixture of aloe and alcohol
applied to the affected area, plus single malt whiskey taken
internally.

> 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" ..

Please warn me if any of those "post-theory" people show up here. I
am not sure what they look like.
.
>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/fi
>ghting_for.html ..

Both Zizek and Baudrillard spoke out about 9/11 in their own fashion.
At least that beats Doug Henwood's "Lets get the motherfuckers" or
Christopher Hitchens. But this is not really about whether or not
Zizek (or Henwood) are on the left. We are trying to keep some kind
of integrity around the notion of Marxism. With Zizek, this goes out
the window entirely. Well, okay, not everybody is cut out to be a
Marxist. I always tried to get mom to read the "Transitional Program"
but finally figured out that she was cut out for gardening and
fighting with local politicians instead. I just wish that Zizek and
all these characters would drop any pretense to Marxism, that's all.
You'll notice that I don't write long screeds against Buckminster
Fuller or Marshall McLuhan.

>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.

That's fine, but why drag poor Chomsky into this. The last thing you
can accuse Chomsky of is just dumping facts into the public trough.
Chomsky's whole career has been an extension of the work of people
like IF Stone, John Reed, Charles Beard, et al. The radical movement
has tried to present alternative *explanations* of why we got
involved in WWI, WWII, Korea, etc. That is the kind of function that
Chomsky has performed nobly since the 1960s. The fact that Zizek can
openly question his value is just a reflection of the campaign that
has been directed at Chomsky from cretins like Christopher Hitchens
and Marc Cooper, who despise the radical movement. In my opinion,
Zizek (and Henwood) simply reflect the 'haut intellectual' version of
this nasty shit.

>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!)

This is the first true thing you've written. Chomsky does not
understand capitalism.

--
Louis Proyect, lnp3 at panix.com on 02/28/2002

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