[Marxism] Passion: Regular or Decaf? By Slavoj Zizek

Živko Vukolaj zivko_vukolaj at hotmail.com
Thu Mar 4 06:37:22 MST 2004

Comrade Louis,

First of all, although objectively I can not but agree with your point in
its entirety, it is nonetheless important to remember that one can not allow
him/herself to take Mr. Slavoj Zizek very seriously. Why this is so is
particularly demonstrated though his rather intentionally capricious
behavior. This also applies to his comments on fascism, Stalinism, etc.

As regards the most interesting paragraph, I would actually have to point at
the one coming third in the reading order:
"This prohibition against embracing a belief with full passion may explain
why, today, religion is only permitted as a particular “culture,” or
lifestyle phenomenon, not as a substantial way of life. We no longer “really
believe,” we just follow (some of) the religious rituals and mores out of
respect for the “lifestyle” of the community to which we belong. Indeed,
what is a “cultural lifestyle” if not that every December in every house
there is a Christmas tree—although none of us believes in Santa Claus?
Perhaps, then, “culture” is the name for all those things we practice
without really believing in them, without “taking them seriously.” Isn’t
this why we dismiss fundamentalist believers as “barbarians,” as a threat to
culture—they dare to take seriously their beliefs? Today, ultimately, we
perceive as a threat to culture those who immediately live their culture,
those who lack a distance toward it."

This reaction against 'political correctness' is, I believe, the very crux
of Zizek's political orientation. Moreover, and perhaps even more
importantly, this paragraph also contains a very deep meaning of criticism
of the present state of Western religious culture. Thus, in so far as
religion itself is concerned, according to Zizek, Islamic fundamentalism
remains as the sole true existing expression of "religious passion".

Zivko Vukolaj

----- Original Message -----
From: "Louis Proyect" <lnp3 at panix.com>
To: "Activists and scholars in Marxist tradition"
<marxism at lists.econ.utah.edu>
Sent: Thursday, March 04, 2004 1:39 AM
Subject: Re: [Marxism] Passion: Regular or Decaf? By Slavoj Zizek

Zivko Vukolaj wrote:
> Could we please get a follow up on any further comments by Slavoj Zizek on
> the "Passion" controversy. Thank you.

Zizek's piece is replete with his bravura obscurantist mixture of pop
culture and political pontificating. He manages to weave together Ex-Lax
and torture in the same paragraph. One wonders about his bowel habits.

For me the most interesting paragraph is the concluding one:

 >>But there is a third position, beyond religious fundamentalism and
liberal tolerance. One should not put forth the distinction between
Islamic fundamentalism and Islam, a la Bush and Blair, who never forget
to praise Islam as a great religion of love and tolerance that has
nothing to do with disgusting terrorist acts. Instead, one should gather
the courage to recognize the obvious fact that there is a deep strain of
violence and intolerance in Islam—that, to put it bluntly, something in
Islam resists the liberal-capitalist world order. By transposing this
tension into the core of Islam, one can conceive such resistance as an
opportunity: It need not necessarily lead to “Islamo-Fascism,” but
rather could be articulated into a Socialist project. The traditional
European Fascism was a misdirected act of resistance against the
deadlocks of capitalist modernization. What was wrong with Fascism was
NOT (as liberals keep telling us) its dream of a people’s community that
overcomes capitalist competition through a spirit of collective
discipline and sacrifice, but how these motives were deformed by a
specific political twist. Fascism, in a way, took the best and turned it
into the worst.<<

A couple of thoughts. First of all, it is not "intolerance" that
characterizes Islam. As Juan Cole points out, Jesus Christ was seen
positively in the Quran. Plus, Jews never had it so good in Europe as
they had under Islamic rule under North African and Ottoman dynasties.
It is more specifically political resistance to imperialism that takes
an atavistic turn in the absence of more secular and scientific
currents--socialism in particular.

The other error is seeing fascism as an act of "resistance against the
deadlocks of capitalist modernization." Clearly Zizek has not studied
Italian fascism, which was very much involved with Futurism. The essence
of fascism is not a rejection of capitalist modernization, but rather a
belief in blood/nation ties that supersede class. It is a bastardization
of socialism that very much posits a belief in progress,
industrialization and all the other values of bourgeois society. I think
that Zizek is confused with the pre-Raphaelites or something.


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