Jan 2008

The Liberal Utopia - sec 1:
Against the Politics of Jouissance

by SLAVOJ ZIZEK

For Lacan, on the contrary, objet a is a(nother) name for the Freudian "partial object," which is why it cannot be reduced to its role in fantasy which sustains desire; it is for this reason that, as Lacan emphasizes, one should distinguish its role in desire and in drive. Following Jacques-Alain Miller, a distinction has to be introduced here between two types of lack, the lack proper and hole: lack is spatial, designating a void WITHIN a space, while hole is more radical, it designates the point at which this spatial order itself breaks down (as in the "black hole" in physics).

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The Liberal Utopia - sec 2:
The Market Mechanism for the Race of Devils

by SLAVOJ ZIZEK

As every close observer of the deadlocks of Political Correctness knows, the separation of legal Justice from moral Goodness - which should be relativized-historicized - ends up in a stifling oppressive moralism full of resentment. Without any "organic" social substance grounding the standards of what Orwell approvingly referred to as "common decency" (all such standards are dismissed as subordinating individual freedom to proto-Fascist organic social forms), the minimalist program of laws which should just prevent individuals to encroach upon each other (to annoy or "harass" each other) reverts into an explosion of legal and moral rules, into an endless process of legalization/moralization called "the fight against all forms of discrimination." If there are no shared mores that are allowed to influence the law, only the fact of "harassing" other subjects, who - in the absence of such mores - will decide what counts as "harassment"?

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Ideology I: No Man is an Island...

by SLAVOJ ZIZEK

Deleuze often varies the motif of how, in becoming post-human, we should learn to practice "a perception as it was before men (or after) /.../ released from their human coordinates" (Cinema 1, 122): those who fully endorse the Nietzschean "return of the same" are strong enough to sustain the vision of the "iridescent chaos of a world before man"(ibid., 81). Although Deleuze resorts here openly to Kant's language, talking about the direct access to "things (the way they are) in themselves," his point is precisely that one should subtract the opposition between phenomena and things-in-themselves, between the phenomenal and the nolumenal level, from its Kantian functioning, where noumena are transcendent things that forever elude our grasp. What Deleuze refers to as "things in themselves" is in a way even more phenomenal then our shared phenomenal reality: it is the impossible phenomenon, the phenomenon that is excluded from our symbolically-constituted reality.

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Ideology II: Competition is a Sin

by SLAVOJ ZIZEK

How can an individual stand for the big Other? One should not think primarily of the leader-figures who directly embody/personify their community (king, president, master), but, rather, of the more mysterious figures of protectors of appearances – like a child whom his otherwise corrupted adult parents and relatives desperately try to keep in ignorance about their deprived lives, or, if a leader, then a leader for whom Potemkin’s villages are raised.

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Ideology III: To Read Too Many Books is Harmful

by SLAVOJ ZIZEK

What seems to characterize the Muslim symbolic space is an immediate conflation of possibility and actuality: what is merely possible is treated (reacted against) as if actually took place. At the level of sexual interactions, when a man finds himself alone with a woman, it is assumed that the opportunity was used, that they did it, that the sexual act took place (which is why sometimes, after finding themselves by accident in such a situation - caught in an elevator which broke down, etc. -, the Muslim women commit suicide out of sense of shame). At the level of writing, this is why Muslims are prohibited to use paper at the toilet: it MAY HAVE BEEN that verses of Quran were written or printed on it...

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Madness and Habit in German Idealism:
Discipline between the Two Freedoms - Part 1

by SLAVOJ ZIZEK

The shift from Aristotle to Kant, to modernity with its subject as pure autonomy: the status of habit changes from organic inner rule to something mechanic, the opposite of human freedom: freedom cannot ever become habit(ual), if it becomes a habit, it is no longer true freedom (which is why Thomas Jefferson wrote that, if people are to remain free, they have to rebel against the government every couple of decades). This eventuality reaches its apogee in Christ, who is "the figure of a pure event, the exact opposite of the habitual".

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Madness and Habit in German Idealism:
Discipline between the Two Freedoms - Part 2

by SLAVOJ ZIZEK

What "haunts" the subject is his inaccessible noumenal Self, the "Thing that thinks," an object in which the subject would fully "encounter himself." (Hume drew a lot of mileage out of this observation on how, upon introspection, all I perceive in myself are my particular ideas, sensations, emotions, never my "Self" itself.) For Kant, the same goes for every object of my experience which is always phenomenal, i.e., inaccessible in its noumenal dimension; however, with the Self, the impasse is accentuated: all other objects of experience are given to me phenomenally, but, in the case of subject, I cannot even get a phenomenal experience of me – since I am dealing with "myself," in this unique case, phenomenal self-experience would equal noumenal access, i.e., if I were to be able to experience "myself" as a phenomenal object, I would thereby eo ipso experience myself in my noumenal identity, as a Thing.

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Only a Suffering God Can Save Us
Section 1: Hegel

by SLAVOJ ZIZEK

The key question about religion today is: can all religious experiences and practices effectively be contained within this dimension of the conjunction of truth and meaning? The best starting point for such a line of inquiry is the point at which religion itself faces a trauma, a shock which dissolves the link between truth and meaning, a truth so traumatic that it resists being integrated into the universe of meaning. Every theologian sooner or later faces the problem of how to reconcile the existence of God with the fact of shoah or similar excessive evil: how are we to reconcile the existence of an omnipotent and good God with the terrifying suffering of millions of innocents, like children killed in the gas chambers? Surprisingly (or not), the theological answers build a strange succession of Hegelian triads.

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Only a Suffering God Can Save Us
Section 2: Kierkegaard

by SLAVOJ ZIZEK

According to an anecdote from the May ’68 period, there was a graffiti on a Paris wall: "God is dead. Nietzsche" Next day, another graffiti appeared below it: "Nietzsche is dead. God" What is wrong with this joke? Why is it so obviously reactionary? It is not only that the reversed statement relies on a moralistic platitude with no inherent truth; its failure is deeper, it concerns the form of reversal itself: what makes the joke a bad joke is the pure symmetry of the reversal – the underlying claim of the first graffiti ("God is dead. Signed by (obviously living) Nietzsche") is turned around into a statement which implies "Nietzsche is dead, while I am still alive. God".

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Radical Evil as a Freudian Category

by SLAVOJ ZIZEK

Jacques Rancière clearly outlined the "ontological trap" into which the Foucauldian-Agambenian notion of "biopolitics" as the culmination of the entire Western thought ends up getting caught: concentration camps appear as a kind of "ontological destiny: each of us would be in the situation of the refugee in a camp. Any difference grows faint between democracy and totalitarianism and any political practice proves to be already ensnared in the biopolitical trap." When, in a shift from Foucault, Agamben identifies sovereign power and biopolitics (in today’s generalized state of exception, the two overlap), he thus precludes the very possibility of the emergence of political subjectivity.

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Cogito, Madness and Religion:
Derrida, Foucault and then Lacan

by SLAVOJ ZIZEK

The 'antagonism' of the Kantian notion of freedom (as the most concise expression of the antagonism of freedom in the bourgeois life itself) does not reside where Adorno locates it (the autonomously self-imposed law means that freedom coincides with self-enslavement and self-domination, that the Kantian "spontaneity" is in actu its opposite, utter self-control, thwarting of all spontaneous impetuses), but "much more on the surface": for Kant as for Rousseau, the greatest moral good is to lead a fully autonomous life as a free rational agent, and the worst evil subjection to the will of another; however, Kant has to concede that man does not emerge as a free mature rational agent spontaneously, through his/her natural development, but only through the arduous process of maturation sustained by harsh discipline and education which cannot but be experienced by the subject as imposed on his/her freedom, as an external coercion.

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Leninism Today: Zionism and the Jewish Question

by SLAVOJ ZIZEK

It is none other than Nietzsche who proposed the correct materialist intervention destined to “traverse the /anti-Semitic/ fantasy”: in No. 251 of Beyond Good and Evil, he proposed, as a way to “breed a new caste that would rule over Europe,” the mixing of the German and the Jewish race, which would combine the German ability of “giving orders and obeying” with the Jewish genius of “money and patience.”

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