Is Zizek an Embarrassment to Academics and to the Left?

Joseph Kugelmass over at The Valve:

There is a telling moment in the film Zizek! where Zizek discusses his own books, and says that his favorite works are the ones where he manages to consider the philosophical tradition most deeply, such as Tarrying With The Negative. Although all of Zizek’s books contain analyses of popular culture and programmatic political speculation, the quarrels that he has personally found most productive have been within the long historical traditions of philosophical debate over dialectics, consciousness, subjectivity, and the way the world becomes manifest through experience. Meanwhile, believing himself capable of discussing the political issues of the day in a clear and accessible manner, Zizek has written political op-eds for a number of publications, including The New York Times, the UK Guardian, and The London Review of Books. These columns are a curious blend of agit-prop and academic exposition; while some of Zizek’s references remain bewildering to readers unacquainted with postmodern political theory, he clearly intends to write transparently and to inspire action.

In the process, he has become an embarrassment to academics and to the Left, even though, admittedly, he has never resorted to reminiscing about Frank Sinatra and Ted Williams. His newest piece, re-posted numerous places around the web, is an endorsement of Hugo Chavez that supposedly comes at the expense of the Left, which, Zizek maintains, colludes with the status quo in secret.

Zizek has become a prisoner of his own fatuous admiration for the successful seizure of power, whether it comes in the form of an attractive cinematic dream (his analysis of 300) or as somebody else’s reality (Hugo Chavez). His perpetual frustration with progressive politicians is no longer distinguishable from that of columnists like Alexander Cockburn, who use politics as a means of asserting superiority over an insular group of fellow travelers with whom they have associated all their lives.