[Marxism] Zizek

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Jul 26 07:34:33 MDT 2004

Chronicle of Higher Education, July 30, 2004
Zizek Watch
Last in a series tracking a seemingly ubiquitous thinker.


After six months of tracking Slovenia's psychoanalytic sphinx, we here 
at Zizek Watch have entered a terminal crisis of moral and epistemic 
reflexivity. (And yes, that's just as painful as it sounds.) The 
question has become unavoidable: Why do we watch Slavoj Zizek?

Sure, it's fun to see him torment the Kantian neo-liberals. He knows a 
lot of dirty jokes. And he can analyze an Alfred Hitchcock film like 
nobody's business. But after a while, a reader begins to notice that Mr. 
Zizek repeats himself. A lot. He even recycles whole chunks of material 
from one work to the next. By the time Verso published his latest book, 
Iraq: The Borrowed Kettle, in June, devotees had encountered some 
paragraphs in three or four earlier incarnations.

The prospect of novelty, then, forms no part of his appeal. On the 
contrary, there is something about reading Mr. Zizek that calls to mind 
certain remarks by Andy Warhol on the reassuring consistency of Coke and 
Campbell's soup. No matter which can you open, it's going to be the same 
as the last one you tasted.

But might there be more to it than that? In search of an answer, we turn 
to an interview with Mr. Zizek in the July issue of The Believer -- a 
literary magazine beloved by the twentysomething post-ironic hipster 
literati. (Readers who are older, more earnest, and/or less cool may 
also want to track down this interview. It offers perhaps the single 
best short introduction to Mr. Zizek's characteristic preoccupations.)

In a comment on the genre of reality TV, the theorist notes that "the 
charm of it is a certain hidden reflexivity. It is not that we are 
voyeurs looking at what people are already doing. The point is that we 
know that they know that they are being filmed." In other words, says 
Mr. Zizek, "we are seeing people acting themselves. In everyday life, we 
act already, in the sense that we have a certain ideal image of 
ourselves, and we act that persona."

So why is Slavoj Zizek so fascinating? Because no one else can do nearly 
so good a Zizek impersonation. It makes perfect sense if you think about 
it, and even more if you don't.

And on that note, we here at Zizek Watch feel it is time to enter 
Lacanian psychoanalysis.


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