Forwarded from Paul Dillon

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sun May 18 06:19:58 MDT 2003


Louis, Gavin,

I have read the three posts and the two short pieces that Louis wrote and it
is clear to me that neither of you is addressing Zizek in a critical or
consistent way. Gavin starts this with his discussion of Zizek's relation
to Alain Badiou and the role of the notion of the Event in Badiou. But it
is clear to me that rather than understand, Gavin has parodied Zizek. I'm
wondering if either of you can describe the ideological process, as Zizek
theorized it, without reformulating that analysis so as to make it easier to
attack.

I notice that both attack Zizek analyses of current affairs that derive
from the general positions layed out in "The Sublime Object of Ideology",
"Tarrying with the Negative", and "The Ticklish Subject" in which the
conditions for a political subject are laid out in relationship to the twin
problems of ideology and interpellation.

But the real smelly fish is calling this or that "scientific" as opposed to
"that" or "this". Is there anyone who will defend, without some
qualification, that Marx's analyses in Capital are "scientific"; that the
notion of "surplus value" is somehow more scientific than Freud's theory of
"eros/thanatos" that stands at the center of Lacan and Zizek's
preoccupations. Personally, I feel that word "scientific" in itself
should be stricken from our discourse since it is precisely what Zizek calls
and "empty universal" just waiting to be filled with one or another
ideological content and at the present has no agreed upon or fixed meaning
(go from Popper to Feyerabend by way of Kuhn and then come back to Carnap
and tell me what science is. Like Leslie White said: science is what
scientists do). The contrast of scientific quality in Freud vs. Marx is
ludicrous at best and downright embarrassing in general coming from people
who I had begun to respect highly..

Leaving aside the show trials for a moment, (I also think the comparison of
Zizek with Koestler is simply appalling and nothing more than an attempt to
discredit by analogy although there is really nothing analogous between
their analyses once you go a couple of millimeters beneath the surface. I'm
sure we've all seen that kind of approach before and have a faily clear idea
of who uses it and why. That's what makes it so surprising, for me,
especially coming from Louis whose positions on most other things I've come
to respect). Why not take on Zizek's analysis of fascism which is one of
the major targets in his appropriation of Badiou. the framework that
Badiou's theory provides for formulating an ethics that can accomodate
revolution. And what about Zizek's use of this theory precisely to
distinguish Stalin from Hitler?? This in itself could be of value to the
movement as a whole insofar as it brings people to recognize that the two
cannot be equated as they are in the logic of the current hegemonic ideas.
Zizek's selection from Lenin's writings is intended precisely to show that
Lenin didn't "anticipate some abstract event" but that he used his
theoretical analysis precisely to intervene in the historical process that
he could analyze with Marxist concepts of class, which Zizek's selections in
"Revolution at the Gates" illustrate beautifully. . And yes, in a certain
way, the Bolsheviks, (5% of the government after March 1917???) , not just
Lenin, brought about a socialist revolution in a situation where Marxism
predicted only a bourgeois revolution, because they did seize the time and
understood the pulse of that part of the society that was moving towsard
social transformation (likewise a small minority in Russia at the time).
Interpretations of Lenin often been accused of idealism for opposing the
"materialism", "the materialist inveitablity": of the "scientific" 2nd
International. (see David Bakhurst, "Revolution and Consciousness" for a
good discussion of the philosophical climate in Russia in the early period
of the revolution). There is absolutely no doubt that Lenin thought an
understanding of Hegel's logic (the paragon of western metaphysical
idealism) was an absolute necessity for understanding anything at all about
what Marx was doing in Capital. It's clear that Zizek understands this (and
Hegel's Logic as well) but not so clear that his critics do. Zizek isn't an
idealist but you need a dialectical materialist interpretation (a la Evalyd
Ilyenkov) to see that and to understand that the ideal is material too.
Zizek's materialism integrates the symbolic and fantasy dimensions of human
experience within a framework where it is possible to analyze the processes
of social reproduction in new and, IMHO, important way. He isn't an
economist or a political scientist or a sociologist but a psychologist
(practicing psychoanalyst--and yes psychoanalysis does "cure" although not
autism) so why is he being blamed for it.

Do I hear howls and gnashing of teeth??? Here's my flesh . . .

Paul H. Dillon


Louis Proyect, Marxism mailing list: http://www.marxmail.org




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