Slavoj Žižek: Clown Prince of the Revolution

Roger Scruton in City Journal:

ScreenHunter_2298 Oct. 15 11.17During the 1960s and 1970s, the consensus in Western academic and intellectual institutions was very much on the left. Writers like Michel Foucault and Pierre Bourdieu shot to eminence by attacking the civilization they dismissed as “bourgeois.” The critical-theory writings of Jürgen Habermas achieved a dominant place in the curriculum in the social sciences, despite their stupefying tediousness. The rewriting of national history as a tale of “class struggle,” undertaken by Eric Hobsbawm in Britain and Howard Zinn in the United States, became a near-orthodoxy not only in university history departments but also in high schools. For us dissidents, it was a dispiriting time, and there was scarcely a morning when I did not wake up during those years, asking myself whether my teaching at the University of London was the right choice of career. Then came the collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe, and I allowed myself to hope.

For a while, it looked as though an apology might be forthcoming from those who had devoted their intellectual and political efforts to whitewashing the crimes of the Soviet Union or praising the “people’s republics” of China and Vietnam. But the moment proved short-lived. Within a decade, the Left establishment was back in the driver’s seat, with Zinn and Noam Chomsky renewing their intemperate denunciations of America, the European Left regrouped against “neoliberalism” (the new name for the free economy) as though this had been the trouble all along, Habermas and Ronald Dworkin collecting prestigious prizes for their barely readable defenses of ruling leftist platitudes, and the veteran Marxist Hobsbawm rewarded for a lifetime of unswerving loyalty to the Soviet Union by his appointment as “Companion of Honour” to the Queen.

True, the enemy was no longer described as before: the Marxist template did not easily fit the new conditions, and it seemed a trifle foolish to champion the cause of the working class, when its last members were joining the ranks of the unemployable or the self-employed. But one thing remained unchanged in the wake of Communism’s collapse: the conviction that it was unacceptable to be on the “right.”

More here.