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zizek and linksfaschismus

with 30 comments

I’m not sure there’s a clearer index of the basic intellectual dysfunction of the anglo-american theoretical left than the persistent popularity of Zizek and his work. The dysfunction is this: rather than conceive of themselves as participants in an on-going conversation, a-a theorists see themselves as the passive recipients of truths formulated elsewhere, generally on the continent. These passive recipients then apply these truths as they will – questioning them, revising them, arguing with them, developing one’s one alternative or oppositional versions and takes is not really part of the bargain. Theory is something, in the end, that happens elsewhere – not here.

Unthinking acceptance of the arguments of those deemed to be the master theorists has to be behind their continuing popularity. How else could one square the fact that individuals otherwise engaged in democratic activism, say, line up for hours to hear Zizek give one of his whistlestop talks at Birkbeck? Or those out on the streets in defense of state-funded education return to their rooms to work on translations of Badiou?

At any rate, there’s an incredibly sensible piece by Alan Johnson on Zizek and his fascist tendencies up at Jacobin. Here’s a bit from the beginning:

Mark Lilla in his book The Reckless Mind predicted that the “extraordinary displays of intellectual philotyranny” that disfigured the twentieth century left would not simply disappear just because the wall had fallen. So it has proved. Since 2000, Žižek has established his “New Communism” on two foundations. First, a system of concepts – Egalitarian Terror, the Absolute Act, Absolute Negativity, Divine Violence, the Messianic Moment, the Revolutionary Truth-Event, the Future Anterieur, and so on. Second, a human type and an associated sensibility – that ideologized and cruel fanatic, contemptuous of morality and trained to enormity that Žižek calls the “freedom fighter with an inhuman face.” In his passive-aggressive way, Zikek has even admitted what this so-called New Communism amounts to: “[Peter] Sloterdijk even mentions the “re-emerging Left-Fascist whispering at the borders of academia,’ where, I guess, I belong.”

Žižek’s philosophy is, to be blunt, is a species of linksfaschismus. This is true of its murderous hostility to democracy, its utter disdain for the ‘stupid’ pleasures of bourgeois life, its valorization of will, ruthlessness, terror and dictatorship, and its belief in the salvific nature of self-sacrificial death.

(Hat tip to Sofie Buckland for the link via FB…)

Written by adswithoutproducts

July 16, 2011 at 6:13 pm

Posted in theory, zizek

30 Responses

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  1. it’s interesting how he tends to avoid the routine hatchet-jobs that the liberal press dishes out to other prominent leftists. Did Johan Hari ever go near him? Or is Zizek safely cushioned by their ‘lifestyle’ pages to peddle blood libel about Gypsies, schoolyard rape jokes, plagiarised film ‘theory’ and the comforting myth that hey… white Christian guys really are the master race!

    That he’s on TV (and movies) so often doesn’t come from any ‘authority’ he has on a subject. His op-eds are as ignorant and bigoted as any other in the British press. He’s a brand – an easy to remember name pulling the punters. What for, I’m not sure. His ‘theories’ are Lacan-for-Beginners (already tiresome and done-to-death in Anglo-American academia) with dollops of mystic race-destiny. He was as dismissive of ‘reality-based’ leftists as Donald Rumsfeld (forget the facts – watch the movie!). He’s as energetic as Tony Blair when it comes to chiding the fuddy-duddy old left. He’s also very vocal against those criticising the US or Israel; and somewhat Hitchens-esque when it comes to Islam. He sure loves carpet bombing and genocide too – the spittle overwhelms him when he’s gesticulating over mass murder. As ‘contrarian’ as page 3 in the Sun, and just as numbing.

    He’s an unfunny joke – but a very unpleasant one. That so many cite his fascistic gibberish as ‘authoritative’, says more about a widespread lack of ‘critical theory’ than anything else. If anything, he’s done an awful lot to wind down and bastardize post-war philosophy, film studies, cultural studies, and political theory. His influence on the supposed left has been disastrous. Read any of his books and they’re basically about nothing, with a bunch of inappropriate pop-cult references and BBC headlines to keep lazier brains happy. His self-reproducing (well, they all seem to despise nature and femininity) children follow a similar schtick. Criticism for people without critical faculties, and enough ambition to justify that lack. But hey, a brand’s a brand. It’s not just TV, it’s HBO. Sophistication for the stupid has become hegemonic in recent years. It’s the only way to crack the mainstream now. Enjoy your symptom indeed…

    W.Kasper

    July 16, 2011 at 8:55 pm

  2. Your not fit to wipe the spittle from his shoes.

    y

    July 17, 2011 at 4:42 pm

    • You evidently have mucho experience doing so. Hope he didn’t sneeze too many ‘cogeys’ into your hair…

      Does he tip?

      W.Kasper

      July 17, 2011 at 6:09 pm

  3. y is not able to elaborate a reasonable defense of her objet petit a(sshole).

    You’d think when it came to an ‘academic’ (I know, I know) this would be expected.

    I suppose thanks to glorious Comrade Zizek we are no longer beholden to such bourgeois standards.

    Jim

    July 17, 2011 at 8:43 pm

    • The personal attacks on this and other blogs merely bear witness to the fact that none of you clowns are capable of producing a serious philosophical challenge to Zizek.

      He has his own reasons for presenting his ideas in the manner that he presents them and regardless of what you may think of his style he has clearly been succesful in encouraging a broad range of people into examining philosphical ideas.

      Perhaps if you could refrain from petty jealous sniping and engage with his work on a more theoretical level this would be more productive for you.

      y

      July 17, 2011 at 11:30 pm

      • Ah yes – ‘jealous’.

        Keanu Reeves can’t act – ‘jealous’. Rupert Murdoch is a gangster-oligarch – ‘jealous’. Hitler was an evil mass murderer – ‘jealous’. And so on.

        As for ‘serious philosophical challenge’ – err, not really much need for that. It’s quite simple. Justifying anti-Gypsy lynch mobs, demanding the bombing of Serbia, pretending the French ‘liberated’ Haiti, slobbering on TV about state terror, telling audiences of white people that racism’s OK, or that Gaza’s nothing for Israelis to worry about (because it could be worse – they could be living among savage Africans!) – it’s just wr-wr-wrong. As plain as the (brown) nose on your face.

        Ditto his cod-mystical Hegelian bullshit about the sublime ‘event’ that will suddenly carry us off to the big commie heaven in the sky (until then – do nothing, comfy smug hipster audience!). Or similar bullshit about regaining the ‘European Christian legacy’ (ie. ‘white’ if you’re supposedly an atheist communist) of his gynophobic psycho hero St. Paul. I don’t need to ‘engage’ with his gibberish any longer – hasn’t he manufactured enough reactionary dimwits?

        Now go and trade black-penis/rape jokes with your guru. And before you return, make sure you clean his cogeys out of your hair… if you have any of course.

        W.Kasper

        July 18, 2011 at 1:09 am

      • I’m interested in the use this jealousy argument.

        As a way of introduction I’m still smarting from the Tory’s ‘your just jealous’ from the early nineties… Well I had got over it until they got back in power, and I was unfortunate enough to hear it again.

        But I’m older and more grizzled now.

        I do believe these chaps are ‘resentful’.

        Jealousy implies a frustrated desire to be with, attain, or even to be, the object of desire.

        This does not seem to be happening here.

        Resentfulness occurs when one is fucked off because some cunt has taken away what one already had.

        Please understand the difference.

        Everyone else please excuse the vernacular, I am rather upset with the current state of affairs, what what.

        Schizo Stroller

        July 21, 2011 at 11:48 pm

  4. Here’s a potted inventory of the sweating fascist’s bullshit, with quotes that definitely are in his books:

    http://www.tnr.com/article/books/the-deadly-jester

    Hardly a journal that that seeks to dig out racism and fascism from every corner, either. But it’s there – in his crass public statements, his rather pre-WW2 fixation on ‘the Jewish question’ (deflected with a very ‘po-mo’ apologia for Zionism when it suits a given audience), his racialised promotion of Europe’s threatened ‘Christian heritage’ (EDL-meets-Lacan), his Victorian attitudes to homosexuality, his Janus-faced statements on US torture (after all, with 9-11 “WE (?) are the victims now!”), his “nigger” jokes, his comparison of ‘foreign’ neighbours with unhealthy consumer goods, his over-riding glee at mass bloodshed – and ongoing admiration for card-carrying Nazi philosophers.

    I don’t give a fuck how many fans he has, or who fools themselves into thinking that this constitutes ‘left-wing’ thought, beyond marketable name-dropping and shelf displays. If it talks like it and thinks like it, it is it. And ‘it’ is a fascist – and even ‘jokingly’ defines itself as such. Yes, he jokes and gesticulates and raises a smirk from the rubes; but then so did Mussollini.

    Also, perhaps related to your Penny Potter post below, his slavering promotion of fascistic pop-cult bollocks – to the extent of substituting it for actual political struggle – represents one of the biggest cases of ‘false consciousness’ retarding the Left and strengthening the Right today. Zizek is as ‘toxic’ to socialism as black metal, Frank Miller comics/movies, CGI Ayn Rand parables, all-white wizard elites, and 95% of the other junk we’re all expected to worship in the name of ‘liberation’.

    Now if you don’t mind, I’m off to vomit on Zizek’s (jack)boots. Just don’t expect me to wipe them afterwards.

    W.Kasper

    July 20, 2011 at 12:45 am

  5. Schizo (? You do call yourself that, so hope it’s acceptable):

    I grew up in the ‘Murdochcene’ age, so the whole ‘jealous’ bollocks is familiar. ‘Politics of envy’ etc. And yeah, I’d be chuffed to get away with selling snake oil so I could marry Argentinian models, talk shit on TV and sell buckets of bullshit to a nervous, insecure academia. However, ‘some cunt’ is currently having a damaging – almost hegemonic – effect on Left ‘thought’ as it’s currently sold. I may think Negri or Badiou have their fair share of BS, but they’re not on the current Zizek level of “this is what it all means kids!” The opportunistic BEARD is a danger – not least for his fascist aspects. he needs flushing ASAP.

    Another bit of ‘speculative realism’: Who exactly was he associating with during Yugoslavia’s collapse? Claiming to be ‘Leninist’ while cheerleading the bombing of Serbia? While the U.S. had its eyes on a crumbling Soviet bloc, and may have been looking out for ‘liberal’ ideologues useful to their interests in the region? Who’s reoccurring message is that the US ain’t so bad, and its crap entertainment is arguably transcendent? Who suddenly became aggressively promoted as “the idea of communism” in this neoliberal/imperial age? Who – despite his lack of novel ideas – is promoted as the leading left theorist of our age? Are these questions too ‘bourgouis’ to address?

    Just a thought. God forbid ‘conspiracy theories’ have any legs these days. That’s just stuff that happened during the Cold War – pseudo-commies working for very un-commie agendas. Conspiracies like that don’t happen anymore. Why, just read the news today – ridiculous…

    W.Kasper

    July 22, 2011 at 12:25 am

    • Dear W.

      I have to admit I was referring to the Tories as the proverbial voids (I refer to the Anglo Saxon meaning here) rather than Zizek, I take a softer line with Zizek, lest one become a beautiful soul, and label him a pied piper for the gullible; those who find him fashionable have as much responsibility for walking through his door and reading him uncritically, as he does for beckoning them in. However from what I have read of him and read of others commenting on him in academia proper, there are more than enough who are able to read Zizek critically and relatively open-mindedly to keep me happy. And speaking personally there are times he positively amuses me, whilst other times he enrages.

      However I’ve got no time for defending him against a legitimate critical disagreement by others with blind loyalty and, as you stated, a politics of charges of envy, leave that to the right please. That was the reason for my tuppence worth.

      ps schizo is fine, I believe I’ve earned the right to use the label as I choose, and happy for others to too, just don’t use it as a label of control and oppression.

      Schizo Stroller

      July 22, 2011 at 4:03 pm

  6. How is this specific to Zizek, and not part of the standard operating procedure of a-a academic philosophy? I.e. tackling “safe” questions such as “What would capital-P Philosopher x have said about y” or, even more safely, ‘What did x ‘really mean’ when he said z”, rather than attempting to get at the underlying, dangerous questions oneself. Acceptable candidates for x are either 1) dead or 2) foreign, i.e. outside the direct peer group. Bonus points for 3) obscure and edgy…

    (The standard snark here would be the comparison with science: how many physicists do you see working on an exegesis of what Newton might have said about, say, the cosmic microwave background? But of course this is just because science has an external source of legitimacy, so the sociology of the field works out differently.)

    aelilea

    July 22, 2011 at 4:33 pm

    • Correction: “a-a academic philosophy” is not who we are talking about, as that would be mainly analytic philosophy, which does not so much have this particular problem. It has others…

      aelilea

      July 22, 2011 at 4:40 pm

    • “For this reason, it was important to uphold the “celebrity” status of figures like Badiou and Žižek: a movement with superstars has staying power. After all, there wouldn’t have been eighty people in the audience, let alone eight hundred, if it weren’t for these celebrities, a fact that speaks to one of the more troubling contradictions in the current world of ideas: that though theory was ostensibly about rejecting priority and hierarchy, origin and personality, patriarchal organization and filiation, no field or discipline is so thoroughly defined by a system of stars and acolytes, great men and those who would be great men, as theory is today and has been for quite awhile.”

      ah, I see you saw this a long time ago…

      aelilea

      August 12, 2011 at 1:34 pm

      • Lots became clear, yes, right from the start of being in London….

        adswithoutproducts

        August 12, 2011 at 1:44 pm

  7. This is so funny. It is the most outrageous kind of comments/view bait I have seen.
    Usually, on the internet, it goes like:

    “apple computers are useless toys; those who use them are mindless zombies enchanted by apple’s propaganda; Steve Jobs is a tyrant and a bastard.

    Now, substitute “apple” with “continental philosophy;” “apple-fans” with leftist academics; Jobs with Zizek and… you had ethos post.

    A tip of the hat to you for creating the first post that tries to use this form of www self promoting narrative through philosophy

    Anonymous

    July 25, 2011 at 7:34 am

  8. “A tip of the hat to you for creating the first post that tries to use this form of www self promoting narrative through philosophy”

    Ah the proud posturing ignorance of the Zizek fan. They think everything was invented the other week. Or didn’t exist at all if it wasn’t on TV.

    I wonder how many of them grew up on farms? Someone should do a poll.

    W.Kasper

    July 25, 2011 at 2:12 pm

  9. Calling Kaspar a self promoter, as if inferring that Zizek was anything other…

    This is the man who produces books which he admits are full of “bullshit”, with only a few parts being “maybe OK”, calls his audience “idiots”, and whose only standard of worth for his own writing is that it is “selling very well”.

    Yes, you didn’t think Comrade Zizek held you in any kind of esteem did you? This might be hard for you to hear, but he views you all with the utmost of contempt, and this years grain harvest isn’t anywhere near as high as the figures say. Quick, pretend you were never here reading this anti revolutionary treachery, maybe you can sign up for the expedition to the Ukraine and swipe yourself something off the locals. Go Comrade! Let them eat critical theory!

    Jim

    July 25, 2011 at 2:41 pm

  10. Ditto to that – he’s a salesman, a shuck. Like certain film-makers and comedians serving up offensive, cheap nonsense and winking to his audience that he’s “not like that really – just highlighting a paradox!”

    He’s ideal for a generation who regard trash like Tarantino ‘canonical’. He makes you feel good about the garbage you enjoy – ‘guilty pleasures’ are the essence of your comfy western being! “We white leftists” should shed that ‘guilt’ (?) and enjoy our rape jokes and racist terms! It’s ‘kewl’, even if it is racist, misogynist, anti-semitic, homophobic and utterly devoid of substance or use. He literally re-writes history and misquotes people to make his ‘point’. The Inglorious Basterd of ‘theory’ (I keep trying to find this ‘theory’, but he’s had enough of my money, thanks).

    His more eager audience members reveal more about Zizek than his cut’n’ paste ‘philosophy’ could. As is the case with most fascistic pop-cult garbage.

    I’m still suspicious regarding his ’emergence’ during the break-up of Yugoslavia BTW. He’s – just about – managed to conceal his highly questionable, but mostly shouted down, ‘approaches’ to various women (look it up). However, he may have very influential pals who find his hogwash very useful for undermining and retarding the ‘actually existing left’. I wouldn’t be surprised about anything regarding this creep. However, if he recommended nuking Libya I’m sure he’d still have ‘Left’ cheerleaders telling us what a cunning rhetorical move it is, and how the ‘P.C. brigade’ should sit back in awe at his genius.

    W.Kasper

    July 25, 2011 at 4:27 pm

  11. This is why resentment is not ressentiment.

    Ressentiment stems from the beautiful soul who identifies the source of their frustration in an others as opposed to he who is resentful but is perfectly aware that this is an understandandable reaction to an onslaught from those attempting to dominate.

    Anger is a form of self-defence against attempts to have one’s arena of discourse trivialised. Just as long as one realises one’s anger is one’s own not caused by another.

    Why protestant shame is a more powerful form of control than catholic guilt.

    So saying that if Zizek’s ideology is pissing you off get together your shit and move your arse to a proper toilet.

    Don’t mean to be a policeman, but evenin’ all.

    Schizo Stroller

    July 25, 2011 at 5:13 pm

  12. Qlipoth killed Zizek

    Anonymous

    July 27, 2011 at 1:33 am

  13. LOL – But is it the active part, I wonder?

    W.Kasper

    July 27, 2011 at 3:05 pm

    • Yes, but it comes in little pots that you keep in the fridge.

      Of course some biologists, especially specialists of the intestine, would debate whether there is such a thing as active Badiou, for some it’s just Badiou, all Badiou is just Badiou.

      Of course I had a friend who travelled to India regularly and she recommended Coca Cola for Spivak belly. Of course Coca Cola destroys all Badiou good or bad, but at least it destroys the bad Badiou and therefore one has no ideology problems.

      I mean we’ve all seen what happens when we put a dirty minted representation of exchange in a glass of Coca Cola over night, comes out all shiny next day.

      Of course never put a Freudian nocturnal representation of narcissisic beauty in there, it’ll dissolve to nothing.

      Sod it put Coca Cola down your loo. That’ll kill more than 99%. although if you want to patronise the producers you can always use Ubuntu, like Benhabib it will save at least 20% of those germs but we do have to keep our loos clean.

      Schizo Stroller

      July 27, 2011 at 9:56 pm

  14. How is Žižek fascist and Aristotle isn’t?

    Anonymous

    August 19, 2011 at 10:12 am

    • As Aristotle pointed out one can only take part in the polis, in the agora, if one has a property, a boundary around one’s oikos, and one’s character. As today that property relates to major shareholding, hedge funds etc we can all police each other under the dictum: there is no alternative. Thus one can no longer see the molar fascist wood for the molecular fascist trees.

      ie one declares Zizek fascist merely through one’s own fascist emotional blocks.

      So hell, yeah, Aristotle is fascist too!

      Schizo Stroller

      August 19, 2011 at 10:46 am

    • A millennium or two might make a wee bit of difference. However, Aristotle probably would have reckoned ‘300’ was load of fascist trash too.

      W.Kasper

      August 22, 2011 at 5:18 am

  15. I often wonder at how little difference. Universal suffrage does not a democratic polity make. In many ways capitalism is closer to his ‘Politics’ than feudalism was. This may be why many Marxist scholars read Aristotle

    As to ‘300’, I would take your fascist trash and raise it to fascist, homo-erotic (yet for those unaware of the commercial use of such unconscious tendencies – hence fascist) trash. Those Spartans eh!

    Schizo Stroller

    August 22, 2011 at 7:13 am


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