Guide Zizeks Politics

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He is currently a returning faculty member of the European Graduate School, and founder and president of the Society for Theoretical Psychoanalysis, Ljubljana.


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Then, so the theory runs, subjects will become aware of the political shortcomings of their current regimes, and be able and moved to better them. First, to criticize a discourse as ideological implies access to a Truth about political things the Truth that the ideologies, as false, would conceal. But it has been widely disputed in the humanities that there could ever be any One such theoretically accessible Truth.

Later writings

Yet he insists that we are not living in a post-ideological world, as figures as different as Tony Blair, Daniel Bell or Richard Rorty have claimed. For subjects to believe in an ideology, it must have been presented to them, and been accepted, as non-ideological indeed, as True and Right, and what anyone sensible would believe.

This is obviously a false belief, at the start of the analytic process. A King is only King because his subjects loyally think and act like he is King think of the tragedy of Lear. Yet, at the same time, the people will only believe he is King if they believe that this is a deeper Truth about which they can do nothing. In the first moment, the size or force of an object painfully impresses upon the subject the limitation of its perceptual capabilities.

Slavoj Žižek - Wikipedia

What political ideologies do, precisely, is provide subjects with a way of seeing the world according to which such an inability can appear as testimony to how Transcendent or Great their Nation, God, Freedom, and so forth is—surely far above the ordinary or profane things of the world. They turn around a narrative about the lost object, and how it was lost see 3d. The enlightenment represented the unprecedented political venture to replace belief in authority as the basis of polity with human reason and knowledge. As Schmitt also complained, the legitimacy of modern authorities is grounded not in the self-grounding decision of the sovereign.

It is grounded in the ability of authorities to muster coherent chains of reasons to subjects about why they are fit to govern. The most disturbing or perverse features of these regimes can only be explained by reference to the key place of knowledge in these regimes. Instead, as social conservatives criticize, it musters the quasi-scientific discourses of marketing and public relations, or increasingly Eastern religion, in order to recommend products to subjects as necessary means in the liberal pursuit of happiness and self-fulfillment.

Freud famously talked of the example of a man who returns a borrowed kettle back to its owner broken.

Badiou, Zizek, and Political Transformations

The man adduces mutually inconsistent excuses which are united only in terms of his ignoble desire to evade responsibility for breaking the kettle: he never borrowed the kettle, the kettle was already broken when he borrowed it, and when he gave the kettle back it was not really broken anyway.

When political strife, uncertainty or division occur, political ideologies and the fundamental fantasies upon which they lean 3a operate to resignify this political discontent so that the political ideal of community can be sustained, and to deny the possibility that this discontent might signal a fundamental injustice or flaw within the regime. Yet political ideologies, as such, cannot avow this possibility see 2d. If only this other or enemy could be removed, the political fantasy contends, the regime would be fully equitable and just.

If what preceded the system was radically different from what subsequently emerged, how could the system have emerged from it, and how can the system come to terms with it at all?

If we name the limits of what the system can understand, do not we, in that very gesture, presuppose some knowledge of what is beyond these limits, if only enough to say what the system is not? Yet we hence presuppose, again in the very act of the explanation, the very thing we were hoping to explain. The only answer is that the Wolf Man has imaginatively transposed himself back into the primal scene if only as an impassive object-gaze—whose historical occurrence he had yet hoped would explain his origin as an individual.

The Judeo-Christian myth of the fall succumbs to precisely these paradoxes, as Kant analyses: if Adam and Eve were purely innocent, how could they have been tempted? The problems for the mythical narrative, Kant argues, hail from its nature as a narrative—or how it tries to render in a historical story what he argues is truly a logical or transcendental priority. Other editions. Enlarge cover. Error rating book.

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