Zizek? Who he?

Jacob Levich jlevich at earthlink.net
Fri Jul 12 18:41:53 MDT 2002

Can anybody fill me in on Slavoj Zizek? Someone sent me a link to an
article of his from the London Review of Books  (
http://www.lrb.co.uk/v24/n10/zize2410.htm), calling it "one of the more
coherent political statements written by any of the major intellectuals
from the academic left."

I thought, frankly, it was a load of crap, and began wondering what Zizek
had ever done to persuade someone I respect that he's a "major intellectual
from the academic left."

My quick take on the Zizek piece -- and I'd be very grateful if anyone
could tell me if I'm on the right track -- is that he goes wrong in
treating what he calls "homo sacer" as something new and exceptional.

In fact what he describes sounds exactly like the default status of
colonized peoples under any kind of imperialism. E.g. he calls the war on
terror "strange" because "the enemy is criminalised if he defends himself
and returns fire with fire." But that was SOP during anti-colonial
struggles in Algeria, South Africa, Palestine, the Congo, India, etc., etc.

In the colonial wars of the 20th Century, it seems to me the colonized have
only rarely (if ever) been accorded the status of legal combatants. Whether
nationalist, Marxist, or Islamist, they are ALWAYS "terrorists" and are
always dealt with in extra-judicial ways, including torture, assassination,
imprisonment at the kings' pleasure, etc.  It's been happening in Israel
for 30 years. (I think the same logic applied in Vietnam, where North
Vietnamese regulars were generally treated as legal combatants -- partly to
support the fiction that the US was protecting South Vietnam from a foreign
invasion -- whereas the NLF insurgents in the South were dealt with

The real difference is that the US is now being far more open about all
this because of the absence of countervailing pressure from the old Soviet
bloc. Struggle for the "hearts and minds" of colonized or post-colonial
people is no longer seen as necessary.

So unlike Zizek I don;t see any of this as being part of the "new global
order" -- to me it feels like  at best an amplification of time-honored
imperialist practice. Am I missing something?


At 11:28 PM 7/8/2002 -0500, rafeeq hasan wrote:
Hi all,

I'd be curious to know what any of you think of this article by Slavoj
Zizek on the war on terror from the May 23 issue of the London Review of
Books. Though it's far from great (and in places the 'theory' seems very
tacked on), I still think that it offers one of the more coherent political
statements written by any of the major intellectuals from the academic left.

My apologies to those who have already read it. I just came across it last

Here is the link: http://www.lrb.co.uk/v24/n10/zize2410.htm

PLEASE clip all extraneous text before replying to a message.

More information about the Marxism mailing list