Slavoj Zizek should stop clowning around with communist concepts

Richard King in The Australian:

239014-6b971f90-a5b2-11e4-9e13-2e651a1b43fbIt fell to American journalist Adam Kirsch, writing in The New Republic in 2008, to encapsulate in a single phrase the disconcerting experience of reading a book by Slavoj Zizek. Kirsch called Zizek ‘‘the deadly jester’’, a description that melds the Slovenian philosopher’s showmanship with his extreme political stance (he is as far to the left politically as he is to the right alphabetically), while also suggesting the two sides are related: that this ‘‘dangerous philosopher’’ is all the more dangerous for his reputation as ‘‘the Elvis of cultural theory’’.

According to this popular view, Zizek’s philosophy is a Trojan horse, a gaudy offering to which the threat of violence is, as he might say himself, ‘‘immanent’’.

Conceived in this way, the Zizek experience is like a scene from a Batman movie, incidentally one of his favourite film franchises. First, we have the crowd-pleasing spectacle, a Cirque du Zizek of highwire philosophy and ideological contortionism — of political theory, psychoanalysis, dirty jokes and Hollywood schlock.

But the scene soon turns to one of horror. Spilling out of a little red car, a bunch of goons made up to look like Hegel, Marx and Jacques Lacan run in all directions at once and spray the audience with noxious gas. At which point the real Zizek steps forward — the apologist for totalitarianism and admirer of Lenin, Stalin and Mao, whose celebration of revolutionary mayhem — ‘‘Everything under heaven is in utter chaos; the situation is excellent’’ — echoes around the big top.

My only problem with this characterisation is that, in one sense at least, it has Zizek backwards.

More here.