and i don’t care about the little u’s above zizek’s name.
“Resistance is Surrender”
Yah, and War is Peace, etc. Douchebag!
It seems Kugelmass is the only libeleftral academic blogger thus far willing to call a spade a spade, though he’s still pretty nice about it. Everyone else seems to be caught in the colorful hypnotic pinwheel of the Slovenian Mad Dog’s rhetorical spasms.
In the LRB, Slavoj Zizek continues his ka-ray-zee phallic assault on ‘liberal piety,’ ‘multiculturalism,’ etc., though lately the reserve army of pussies has apparently migrated to The Left. The ‘Hollywood Left.’ The ‘Academic Left.’ The ‘Populist Left.’ The slogans have changed accordingly: instead of sampling 1968’s ‘be realistic! demand the impossible!’ in order to point poor meek liberal pragmatists toward the deliverance a of purely discursive ‘total revolt,’ the fantasy of state seizure he ‘ironically’ attributed to The Left, he has now dialectically realized that the The Left could use a few push-ups as well.
The really atrocious thing is the fact-free horrorification of Chavez, for which chabert reliably gives him a good spanking here.
This is of course not the first time Chavez has come up:
Many people sympathetic to the Hugo Chavez’ regime in Venezuela like to oppose Chavez’ flamboyant and sometimes clownish caudillo style to the vast popular movement of the self-organization of the poor and dispossessed that surprisingly brought him back to power after he was deposed in a US-backed coup; the error of this view is to think that one can have the second without the first: the popular movement needs the identificatory figure of a charismatic leader. The limitation of Chavez lies elsewhere, in the very factor which enables him to play his role: the oil money. It is as if oil is always a mixed blessing, if not an outright curse. Because of this supply, he can go on making populist gestures without “paying the full price for them,” without really inventing something new at the socio-economic level. Money makes him possible to practice inconsistent politics (populist anti-capitalist measures AND leaving the capitalist edifice basically untouched), of not acting but postponing the act, the radical change. (In spite of his anti-US rhetoric, Chavez takes great care that Venezuelan contracts with the US are regularly met – he effectively is a “Fidel with oil.”)
First Chavez isn’t REALLY doing anything because he’s not changing anything at the ‘socioeconomic level.’ He’s a cool villain, that’s all, sexy and charismatic but tragically driven to evil by an unfortunate excess of natural resources (this line is straight from the Economist), which is also the deciding factor in his inability to get it up (he’s just not capable of “the act,” you see, “the radical change”). Elsewhere he becomes a potestatic monster to be overcome by his own potentia, by spawning a formless sea of vagrants who will rise up and take over, the zombie apocalypse version of socialist revolution.
Now his big brown Phallus is announced as the measuring rod for The Left. And we’re all The Left, now, including Democrats. I guess it’s easier to deal with ‘us’ that way? Is it proletarianization? We’re all one class now? Anyway, now we have to stop making ‘impossible’ demands, instead we have to make……….possible demands! While still being badass revolutionaries! Genius!
The line that really does it for me though is this one: “And what would [Simon] Critchley do if he were facing an adversary like Hitler?” That this is almost word for word the *successful* propaganda offered by Bush about Saddam and now Ahmadinejad is part of the ‘joke.’ ‘Hilarious,’ isn’t it?
This piece by catmint is pretty helpful I think in understanding Zizek’s style, and why if you let him hypnotize you he can seem mysteriously (thus also deniably) convincing. Especially in this latest thing, in which he has the nerve to open with a list of the various Left types, setting them against that vampiric creature ‘capitalism.’ Reading Jung’s Man and His Symbols, catmint calls the aesthetic ‘creative taxonomy.’
Here’s Zizek’s list:
Today’s Left reacts in a wide variety of ways to the hegemony of global capitalism and its political supplement, liberal democracy. It might, for example, accept the hegemony, but continue to fight for reform within its rules (this is Third Way social democracy).
Or, it accepts that the hegemony is here to stay, but should nonetheless be resisted from its ‘interstices’.
Or, it accepts the futility of all struggle, since the hegemony is so all-encompassing that nothing can really be done except wait for an outburst of ‘divine violence’ – a revolutionary version of Heidegger’s ‘only God can save us.’
Or, it recognises the temporary futility of the struggle. In today’s triumph of global capitalism, the argument goes, true resistance is not possible, so all we can do till the revolutionary spirit of the global working class is renewed is defend what remains of the welfare state, confronting those in power with demands we know they cannot fulfil, and otherwise withdraw into cultural studies, where one can quietly pursue the work of criticism.
Or, it emphasises the fact that the problem is a more fundamental one, that global capitalism is ultimately an effect of the underlying principles of technology or ‘instrumental reason’.
Or, it posits that one can undermine global capitalism and state power, not by directly attacking them, but by refocusing the field of struggle on everyday practices, where one can ‘build a new world’; in this way, the foundations of the power of capital and the state will be gradually undermined, and, at some point, the state will collapse (the exemplar of this approach is the Zapatista movement).
Or, it takes the ‘postmodern’ route, shifting the accent from anti-capitalist struggle to the multiple forms of politico-ideological struggle for hegemony, emphasising the importance of discursive re-articulation.
Or, it wagers that one can repeat at the postmodern level the classical Marxist gesture of enacting the ‘determinate negation’ of capitalism: with today’s rise of ‘cognitive work’, the contradiction between social production and capitalist relations has become starker than ever, rendering possible for the first time ‘absolute democracy’ (this would be Hardt and Negri’s position).
These positions are not presented as a way of avoiding some ‘true’ radical Left politics – what they are trying to get around is, indeed, the lack of such a position.
And here’s catmint:
The taxonomy works this way: the auditor is invited to identify with one of the species established; to identify themself as a “thinking” or “feeling” type. Now, belonging to either species identifies one as possessing both the positive and negative attributes pertaining to that species (it’s necessary for these attributes to be both positive and negative). The system works where the auditor is seduced enough by the positive things said about them to accord some validity to the negative things. According to the heuristic approach necessary to make the mass media intelligible, negative characterisations of the auditor are always afforded a degree of absolute validity. Also the auditor is most likely ill equipped to theorise an alternative conceptual basis for system laid out.
So, the auditor is offered this role, the role of a “thinking” type, for instance. The auditor is both seduced and repulsed by this designation, but cannot make a judgement on its validity, only partially accept it. But this partial acceptance of the application of a concept in particular, implies the validity of the concept in general. It is accepted that there is a “thinking” type, and so correlatively, a “feeling” type.
(I know this sounds idealist and cruel, but you’ve got to bear in mind that I’m describing the psychology of the mousetrap not the psychology of the mouse)
The effect of this is to reproduce the field of psychology in a distorted way. The division of humanity into different species, each coherent only with respect to others has the effect of:
1. obfuscating genuinely scientific ideas about human consciousness
2. offering spurious justifications for the political application of division of labour
3. eternalising and mystifying historically conditioned states of human development
4. offering spurious justification for the idea that humanity is comprehended by its philosophers, and by implication that society is comprehended by its owners
“as if the world and the psyche were static and would remain so forever”
I think this accounts for virtually the entirety of Zizek’s political commentary at any given ‘moment.’ Every few months or so comes a dialectical shift, and the terms, most of them borrowed from other sources, are turned inside out, all Hegelian style. Then some other things happen, provoking another shift. And so on.
It’s only significant because of the sheer audacity and shamelessness of the performance. Political theory, however, is always at risk of becoming-Zizek in the course of any simple application of philosophy to politics. In achieving absolute immanence with his particular melange of Hegel and Lacan (a point I situate shortly after the publication of The Parallax View), Zizek can now serve for other intellectual commentators exactly as he intends Chavez to serve for The Left. The court jester. The fun house mirror. Bearer of our worst impulses. To his credit, I am almost ready to believe this is intentional.