Has the new Luther finally arrived?

In the Introduction to Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, Marx wrote:

For Germany’s revolutionary past is theoretical, it is the Reformation. As the revolution then began in the brain of the monk, so now it begins in the brain of the philosopher.

In his Prison Notebooks, Gramsci longed for a true ‘Italian Luther’ …

So I am pleased to announce that the new Luther has finally appeared amongst us: it is Slavoj Žižek. Neither German nor Italian, Luther has appeared as a Slovenian. How do we know? In Žižek’s latest work, God in Pain, the cover invokes our belligerent and sturdy monk with:

God in Pain is interesting for 95 reasons …



Caricature of an intellectual argument?

One Khepra has responded to Lenin’s Tomb‘s follow-up post on Žižek and racism with this absolute gem:

First, I think it critical to point out that I would not argue that your charge of ‘racism’ is wrong, but that it is not right. In other words, I would not suggest that ‘racist’ themes cannot be interpreted in Zizek’s argumentation, but that these themes are *interpretations* and not ‘reality’ or ‘the truth’. I propose that if one were to ask Zizek something to the effect of, “Did you mean to implicitly endorse racism or pogroms?” he would not answer in the affirmative. Therefore, I would suggest that you have interpolated this meaning and that it might be more constructive to acknowledge your role as author and translator than arbiter of ‘truth’ and ‘meaning’. [That is not to say that all meanings and interpretations are equivalent. Many ≠ any. One could not, for instance, legitimately come away from Zizek’s presentation with the interpretation that Zizek ignored the plight of the Romas outright, or that the cultural dispositions of the Romas had been thoroughly and accurately represented, or that Zizek was a firm advocate of neoliberal capitalism, etc.]

Reminds me of that moment in a lift when you hear two academics talking about something or other: it seems like a caricature of any intellectual conversation. (ht cp)

Jameson on Žižek

This is why I still love reading this guy:

As every schoolchild knows by now, a new book by Žižek is supposed to include, in no special order, discussions of Hegel, Marx and Kant; various pre- and post-socialist anecdotes and reflections; notes on Kafka as well as on mass-cultural writers like Stephen King or Patricia Highsmith; references to opera (Wagner, Mozart); jokes from the Marx Brothers; outbursts of obscenity, scatological as well as sexual; interventions in the history of philosophy, from Spinoza and Kierkegaard to Kripke and Dennett; analyses of Hitchcock films and other Hollywood products; references to current events; disquisitions on obscure points of Lacanian doctrine; polemics with various contemporary theorists (Derrida, Deleuze); comparative theology; and, most recently, reports on cognitive philosophy and neuroscientific ‘advances’. These are lined up in what Eisenstein liked to call ‘a montage of attractions’, a kind of theoretical variety show, in which a series of ‘numbers’ succeed each other and hold the audience in rapt fascination. It is a wonderful show; the only drawback is that at the end the reader is perplexed as to the ideas that have been presented, or at least as to the major ones to be retained. One would think that reading all Žižek’s books in succession would only compound this problem: on the contrary, it simplifies it somewhat, as the larger concepts begin to emerge from the mist.

All of which makes me wonder whether the desire to find a system within Žižek’s thought is a little misdirected (here we should ignore his own claims), for he is more like Badiou’s anti-philosopher – Paul, Kierkegaard, Lacan etc. That and the need to read Žižek’s work as a massive compensation for or response to the ‘former Yugoslavia’, since he played his own eager role in its breakup.

The constitutive tension of Žižek’s thought?

I sidled up to it in my chapter on the pudgy Slovenian in Criticism of Heaven and Adam Kotsko narrated its passage to and fro in the man’s thought in his Žižek and Theology, but I wonder whether anyone has argued that Žižek’s thought is actually caught in this irresolvable tension – irresolvable at least for him. It is the tension between the argument (most forcefully put in Lacanian terms) that any revolution will run into the mud, since it still operates with the same coordinates as that which it seeks to overthrow, and the desire for a genuine revolution, which is cast in various terms, whether theological, Leninist, good old communist or what have you. In short: the tension between signing up for the Cause or refusism. And I wonder whether this tension, to which Žižek returns again and again, marks the trauma of the failed revolution in Slovenia, in which he was a full participant?