Saturday, May 30, 2009

Zizek update

The world of Zizek studies was rocked this week with the publication of a five year old article by Ian Parker, which was basically sympathetic to Zizek, and which went some way toward explaining his writing, but which also contained an apocryphal anecdote about Zizek. The article is available as an MS Word file here:

According to Parker, one of the themes addressed in Zizek's work is "how it [is] possible to engage in transformative personal change", which, if we really are "caught by ideology" and "caught by fantasy", literally coincides with the problem "how it is possible to be revolutionary". Zizek's greatest wheeze was probably his discovery of a new role model for "transformative personal change", previously unknown in the world of Mind Body Spirit publishing: Vladimir Lenin.

This is Zizek's "mischevious" side. What is strange is that Parker really has to spell it out, for those otherwise gifted souls involved in "artistic practice, personal change and political transformation", not to mention "quite difficult theory", who might otherwise "overidentify" with Zizek's drollery for no good reason whatsoever. In this Parker has done a great service to advanced education. In fact, one wonders whether Zizek himself wanted to signpost the article, in order to reign back some of the Ultra-Zizz graduate students.

The weaknesses of the rest of the article are the weaknesses of advanced education, which is dominated by people who are good at believing anything. One might have thought that pro "philosophers" would be able to decompose the Freudian system into the logical operations that constitute it (i.e. the "Freudian proof" underwrites each otherwise unrelated development of the Freudian system), but apparantly this isn't possible. Instead, all the "advanced studies" are layered on top of each other, as in a Hanna Barbera monster sandwich: "Hegelian phenomenology, Lacanian psychoanalysis", "Marxist politics".

Parker compares Zizek's "lessons" with "hysterical" explanations:

"Psychoanalytically speaking, and drawing on the work of Lacan, we could put it like this. The hysteric finds a way of speaking the truth through lies."

It is precisely the "Freudian proof" that guarantees for the "hysteric", that is, the client, their inevitable, though unconscious, omniscience over their own history. For Zizek to perform the same function for his readers, his particular clients, he would have to have the same omniscience over universal history. Zizek seems to have read maybe two books in the last five years (not counting the books he's written), and he's not really that clever anyway.

(see also Colonel Chabert's latest Zizek studies masterpiece, here.)

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