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  1. In 2019, Žižek began hosting a mini-series called How to Watch the News with Slavoj Žižek on the RT network. In April, Žižek debated psychology professor Jordan Peterson at the Sony Centre in Toronto, Canada over happiness under capitalism versus Marxism. Personal life. Žižek has been married four times.

    • Overview
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    Slavoj Žižek is a Slovenian-born political philosopher and cultural critic. He was described by British literary theorist, Terry Eagleton, as the most formidably brilliant recent theorist to have emerged from Continental Europe.

    Žižeks work is infamously idiosyncratic. It features striking dialectical reversals of received common sense; a ubiquitous sense of humor; a patented disrespect towards the modern distinction between high and low culture; and the examination of examples taken from the most diverse cultural and political fields. Yet Žižeks work, as he warns us, has a very serious philosophical content and intention. He challenges many of the founding assumptions of todays left-liberal academy, including the elevation of difference or otherness to ends in themselves, the reading of the Western Enlightenment as implicitly totalitarian, and the pervasive skepticism towards any context-transcendent notions of truth or the good. One feature of Žižeks work is its singular philosophical and political reconsideration of German idealism (Kant, Schelling and Hegel). Žižek has also reinvigorated the challenging psychoanalytic theory of Jacques Lacan, controversially reading him as a thinker who carries forward founding modernist commitments to the Cartesian subject and the liberating potential of self-reflective agency, if not self-transparency. Žižeks works since 1997 have become more and more explicitly political, contesting the widespread consensus that we live in a post-ideological or post-political world, and defending the possibility of lasting changes to the new world order of globalization, the end of history, or the war on terror. A further key point that Žižek takes from Louis Althussers later work on ideology is Althussers emphasis on the materiality of ideology, its embodiment in institutions and peoples everyday practices and lives. Žižeks realist position is that all the ideas in the world can have no lasting political effect unless they come to inform institutions and subjects day-to-day lives. In The Sublime Object of Ideology, Žižek cites Blaise Pascals advice that doubting subjects should get down on their knees and pray, and then they will believe. Pascals position is not any kind of simple proto-behaviorism, according to Žižek. The deeper message of Pascals directive, he asserts, is to suggest that once subjects have come to believe through praying, they will also retrospectively see that they got down on their knees because they always believed, without knowing it. In this way, in fact, Žižek can be read as a consistent critic not only of the importance of knowledge in the formation of political consensus, but also of the importance of inwardness in politics per se in the tradition of the younger Carl Schmitt. Prior political philosophy has placed too little emphasis, Žižek asserts, on communities cultural practices that involve what he calls inherent transgression. These are practices sanctioned by a culture that nevertheless allow subjects some experience of what is usually exceptional to or prohibited in their everyday lives as civilized political subjectsthings like sex, death, defecation, or violence. Such experiences involve what Žižek calls jouissance, another technical term he takes from Lacanian psychoanalysis. Jouissance is usually translated from the French as enjoyment. As opposed to what we talk of in English as pleasure, though, jouissance is an always sexualized, always transgressive enjoyment, at the limits of what subjects can experience or talk about in public. Žižek argues that subjects experiences of the events and practices wherein their political culture organizes its specific relations to jouissance (in first world nations, for example, specific sports, types of alcohol or drugs, music, festivals, films) are as close as they will get to knowing the deeper Truth intimated for them by their regimes master signifiers: nation, God, our way of life, and so forth (see 2b above). Žižek, like Burke, argues that it is such ostensibly nonpolitical and culturally specific practices as these that irreplaceably single out any political community from its others and enemies. Or, as one of Žižeks chapter titles in Tarrying With the Negative puts it, where and although subjects do not know their Nation, they enjoy (jouis) their nation as themselves. According to Žižek, like and after Althusser, ideologies are thus political discourses whose primary function is not to make correct theoretical statements about political reality (as Marxs false consciousness model implies), but to orient subjects lived relations to and within this reality. If a political ideologys descriptive propositions turn out to be true (for example: capitalism exploits the workers, Saddam was a dictator, the Spanish are the national enemy, and so forth), this does not in any way reduce their ideological character, in Žižeks estimation. This is because this character concerns the political issue of how subjects belief in these propositions, instead of those of opponents, positions subjects on the leading political issues of the day. For Žižek, political speech is primarily about securing a lived sense of unity or community between subjects, something like what Kant called sensus communis or Rousseau the general will. If political propositions seemingly do describe things in the world, Žižeks position is that we nevertheless need always to understand them as Marx understood the exchange value of commoditiesas a relation between people being concealed behind a relation between things. Or again: just as Kant thought that the proposition this is beautiful really expresses a subjects reflective sense of commonality with all other subjects capable of being similarly affected by the object, so Žižek argues that propositions like Go Spain! or the King will never stop working to secure our future are what Kant called reflective judgments, which tell us as much or more about the subjects lived relation to political reality as about this reality itself. In line with Žižeks ideas of ideological disidentification and jouissance as a political factor (see 2b and 2c above) and in a clear comparison with Derridas deconstruction, arguably the unifying thought in Žižeks political philosophy is that regimes can only secure a sense of collective identity if their governing ideologies afford subjects an understanding of how their regime relates to what exceeds, supplements or challenges its identity. This is why Kants analytic of the sublime in The Critique of Judgment, as an analysis of an experience in which the subjects identity is challenged, is of the highest theoretical interest for Žižek. Kants analytic of the sublime isolates two moments to its experience, as Žižek observes. In the first moment, the size or force of an object painfully impresses upon the subject the limitation of its perceptual capabilities. In a second moment, however, a representation arises where we would least expect it, which takes as its object the subjects own failure to perceptually take the object in. This representation resignifies the subjects perceptual failure as indirect testimony about the inadequacy of human perception as such to attain to what Kant calls Ideas of Reason (in Kants system, God, the Universe as a Whole, Freedom, the Good). According to Žižek, all successful political ideologies necessarily refer to and turn around sublime objects posited by political ideologies. These sublime objects are what political subjects take it that their regimes ideologies central words mean or name extraordinary Things like God, the Fuhrer, the King, in whose name they will (if necessary) transgress ordinary moral laws and lay down their lives. When a subject believes in a political ideology, as we saw in 2b above, Žižek argues that this does not mean that they know the Truth about the objects which its key terms seemingly nameindeed, Žižek will finally contest that such a Truth exists (see 3c, d). Nevertheless, by drawing on a parallel with Kant on the sublime, Žižek makes a further and more radical point. Just as in the experience of the sublime, Kants subject resignifies its failure to grasp the sublime object as indirect testimony to a wholly supersensible faculty within herself (Reason), so Žižek argues that the inability of subjects to explain the nature of what they believe in politically does not indicate any disloyalty or abnormality. 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 issurely far above the ordinary or profane things of the world. In Žižeks Lacanian terms, these things are Real (capital R) Things (capital T), precisely insofar as they in this way stand out from the reality of ordinary things and events. For Žižek, as we have seen, no political regime can sustain the political consensus upon which it depends, unless its predominant ideology affords subjects a sense both of individual distance or freedom with regard to its explicit prescriptions (2b), and that the regime is grounded in some larger or sublime Truth (2e). Žižeks political philosophy identifies interconnected instances of these dialectical ideas: his notion of ideological disidentification (2b); his contention that ideologies must accommodate subjects transgressive experiences of jouissance (2c); and his conception of exceptional or sublime objects of ideology (2e). Arguably the central notion in Žižeks political philosophy intersects with Žižeks notion of ideological fantasy. Ideological fantasy is Žižeks technical name for the deepest framework of belief that structures how political subjects, and/or a political community, comes to terms with what exceeds its norms and boundaries, in the various registers we examined above. Like many of Žižeks key notions, Žižeks notion of the ideological fantasy is a political adaptation of an idea from Lacanian psychoanalysis: specifically, Lacans structuralist rereading of Freuds psychoanalytic understanding of unconscious fantasy. As for Lacan, so for Žižek, the civilizing of subjects necessitates their founding sacrifice (or castration) of jouissance, enacted in the name of sociopolitical Law. Subjects, to the extent that they are civilized, are cut from the primal object of their desire. Instead, they are forced by social Law to pursue this special, lost Thing in Žižeks technical term, the objet petit a (see 4a, 4b) by observing their societies linguistically mediated conventions, deferring satisfaction, and accepting sexual and generational difference. Subjects fundamental fantasies, according to Lacan, are unconscious structures which allow them to accept the traumatic loss involved in this founding sacrifice. They turn around a narrative about the lost object, and how it was lost (see 3d). In particular, the fundamental fantasy of a subject resignifies the founding repression of jouissance by Lawwhich, according to Lacan, is necessary if the individual is to become a speaking subjectas if it were a merely contingent, avoidable occurrence. In the fantasy, that is, what for Žižek is a constitutive event for the subject, is renarrated as the historical action of some exceptional individual (in Enjoy Your Symptom! the pre-Oedipal anal father). Equally, the jouissance the subject considers itself to have lost is posited by the fantasy as having been taken from it by this persecutory Other supposed to enjoy (see 3b). In the notion of ideological fantasy, Žižek takes this psychoanalytic framework and applies it to the understanding of the constitution of political groups. If after Plato, political theory concerns the Laws of a regime, the Laws for Žižek are always split or double in kind. Each political regime has a body of more or less explicit, usually written Laws which demand that subjects forego jouissance in the name of the greater good, and according to the letter of its proscriptions (for example, the US or French constitutions). Žižek identifies this level of the Law with the Freudian ego ideal. But Žižek argues that, in order to be effective, a regimes explicit Laws must also harbor and conceal a darker underside, a set of more or less unspoken rules which, far from simply repressing jouissance, implicate subjects in a guilty enjoyment in repression itself, which Žižek likens to the pleasure-in-pain associated with the experience of Kants sublime (see 2d). The Freudian superego, for Žižek, names the psychical agency of the Law, as it is misrepresented and sustained by subjects fantasmatic imaginings of a persecutory Other supposed to enjoy (like the archetypal villain in noir films). This darker underside of the Law, Žižek agrees with Lacan, is at its base a constant imperative to subjects to jouis!, by engaging in the inherent transgressions of their sociopolitical community (see 2b). Žižeks notion of the split in the Law in this way intersects directly with his notion of ideological disidentification examined in 2b. While political subjects maintain a conscious sense of freedom from the explicit norms of their culture, Žižek contends, this disidentification is grounded in their unconscious attachment to the Law as superego, itself an agency of enjoyment. If Althusser famously denied the importance of what people have on their consciences in the explanation of how political ideologies work, then for Žižek the role of guiltas the way in which the subject enjoys his subjection to the lawsis vital to understanding subjects political commitments. Individuals will only turn around when the Law hails them, Žižek argues, insofar as they are finally subjects also of the unconscious belief that the big Other has access to the jouissance they have lost as subjects of the Law, and which they can accordingly reattain through their political allegiance (see 2b). It is this belief, what could be termed this political economy of jouissance, that the fundamental fantasies underlying political regimes worldviews are there to structure in subjects. In a series of places, Žižek situates his ontological position in terms of a striking reading of Immanuel Kants practical philosophy. Žižek argues that in Religion Within the Bounds of Reason Alone Kant showed that he was aware of these paradoxes that necessarily attend any attempt to narrate the origins of the Law. 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?; if their temptation was wholly the fault of the tempter, why then has God punished humans with the weight of original sin?; but if Adam and Eve were not purely innocent when the snake lured them, in what sense was this a fall at all? According to Žižek, Kants text also provides us with theoretical parameters which allow us to explain and avoid these paradoxes. The problems for the mythical narrative, Kant argues, hail from its nature as a narrativeor how it tries to render in a historical story what he argues is truly a logical or transcendental priority. For Kant, human beings are, as such, radically evil. They have always already chosen to assert their own self-conceit above the moral Law. This choice of radical evil, however, is not itself a historical choice either for individuals or for the species, for Kant. This choice is what underlies and opens up the space for all such historical choices. However, as Žižek argues, Kant withdraws from the strictly diabolical implications of this position. The key place in which this withdrawal is enacted is in the postulates of The Critique of Practical Reason, wherein Kant defends the immortality of the soul as a likely story on the basis of our moral experience. Because of radical evil, Kant argues, it is impossible for humans to ever act purely out of duty in this lifethis is what Kant thinks our irremovable sense of moral guilt attests. But because people can never act purely in this life, Kant suggests, it is surely reasonable to hope and even to postulate that the soul lives on after death, striving ever closer towards the perfection of its will. As 4b confirms (and as we commented in 1c), Žižeks political philosophy turns around the idea that the central words of political ideologues are at base signifiers without signified, words that only appear to refer to exceptional Things, and which thereby facilitate the identification between subjects. As Žižek argues, these sublime objects of ideology have exactly the ontological status of what Kant called transcendental illusionsillusions whose semblance conceals that there is nothing behind them to conceal. Ideological subjects do not know what they do when they believe in them, Žižek contends. Yet, through the presupposition that the Other(s) know (2c), and their participation in the practices involving inherent transgression of their political community (2c), they identify with the very gesture of identification (4b). Hence, their belief, coupled with these practices, is politically efficient. In 4b, we saw how Žižek argues that political identification is identification with the gesture of identification. In 4c, we saw how the ultimate foundation of a regimes laws is a tautologous assertion of the bare political fact that there is law. What unites these two positions is the idea that the sublime objects of a political regime and the ideological fantasies that give narratives about their content conceal from subjects the absence of any final ground for Law beyond the fact of its own assertion, and the fact that subjects take it to be authoritative. Here as elsewhere, Žižeks work surprisingly approaches leading motifs in the political philosophy of Carl Schmitt.

    This article explains Žižeks philosophy as a systematic, if unusually presented, whole; and it clarifies the technical language Žižek uses, which he takes from Lacanian psychoanalysis, Marxism, and German idealism. In line with how Žižek presents his own work, this article starts by examining Žižeks descriptive political philosophy. It then examines the Lacanian-Hegelian ontology that underlies Žižeks political philosophy. The final part addresses Žižeks practical philosophy, and the ethical philosophy he draws from this ontology.

    Slavoj Žižek was born in 1949 in Ljubljana, Slovenia. He grew up in the comparative cultural freedom of the former Yugoslavias self-managing socialism. Heresignificantly for his work Žižek was exposed to the films, popular culture and theory of the noncommunist West. Žižek completed his PhD at Ljubljana in 1981 on German Idealism, and between 1981 and 1985 studied in Paris under Jacques AlainMiller, Lacans son-in-law. In this period, Žižek wrote a second dissertation, a Lacanian reading of Hegel, Marx and Kripke. In the late 1980s, Žižek returned to Slovenia where he wrote newspaper columns for the Slovenian weekly Mladina, and cofounded the Slovenian Liberal Democratic Party. In 1990, he ran for a seat on the four-member collective Slovenian presidency, narrowly missing office. Žižeks first published book in English, The Sublime Object of Ideology, appeared in 1989. Since then, Žižek has published over a dozen books, edited several collections, published numerous philosophical and political articles, and maintained a tireless speaking schedule. His earlier works are of the type Introductions to Lacan through popular culture / Hitchcock / Hollywood Since at least 1997, however, Žižeks work has taken on an increasingly engaged political tenor, culminating in books on September 11 and the Iraq war. As well as being visiting professor at the Department of Psychoanalysis, Universite ParisVIII in 1982-3 and 1985-6, Žižek has lectured at the Cardozo Law School, Columbia, Princeton, the New School for Social Research, the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and Georgetown. He is currently a returning faculty member of the European Graduate School, and founder and president of the Society for Theoretical Psychoanalysis, Ljubljana.

    In a way that is oddly reminiscent of Nietzsche, Žižek generally presents his work in a polemical fashion, knowingly striking out against the grain of accepted opinion. One untimely feature of Žižeks work is his continuing defense and use of the unfashionable term ideology. According to the classical Marxist definition, ideologies are discourses that promote false ideas (or false consciousness) in subjects about the political regimes they live in. Nevertheless, because these ideas are believed by the subjects to be true, they assist in the reproduction of the existing status quo, in an exact instance of what Umberto Eco dubs the force of the fake. To critique ideology, according to this position, it is sufficient to unearth the truth(s) the ideologies conceal from the subjects knowledge. 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. As Žižek takes up in his earlier works, this classical Marxian notion of ideology has come under theoretical attack in a number of ways. 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. Secondly, the notion of ideology is held to be irrelevant to describe contemporary sociopolitical life, because of the increased importance of what Jurgen Habermas calls mediasteered subsystems (the market, public and private bureaucracies), and also because of the widespread cynicism of todays subjects towards political authorities. For ideologies to have political importance, critics comment, subjects would have to have a level of faith in public institutions, ideals and politicians which todays liberal-cosmopolitan subjects lack. The widespread notoriety of left-leaning authors like Michael Moore of Noam Chomsky, as one example, bears witness to how subjects today can know very well what Moore claims is the awful truth, and yet act as if they did not know.

    Todays typical first world subjects, according to Žižek, are the dupes of what he calls ideological cynicism. Drawing on the German political theorist Sloterdijk, Žižek contends that the formula describing the operation of ideology today is not they do not know it, but they are doing it, as it was for Marx. It is they know it, but they are doing it anyway. If this looks like nonsense from the classical Marxist perspective, Žižeks position is that nevertheless this cynicism indicates the deeper efficacy of political ideology per se. Ideologies, as political discourses, are there to secure the voluntary consentor what La Boétie called servitude volontaire of people about contestable political policies or arrangements. Yet, Žižek argues, subjects will only voluntarily agree to follow one or other such arrangement if they believe that, in doing so, they are expressing their free subjectivity, and might have done otherwise. Perhaps Žižeks most radical challenge to accepted theoretical opinion is his defense of the modern, Cartesian subject. Žižek knowingly and polemically positions his writings against virtually all other contemporary theorists, with the significant exception of Alain Badiou. Yet for Žižek, the Cartesian subject is not reducible to the fully self-assured master and possessor of nature of Descartes Discourses. It is what Žižek calls in Kant With (Or Against) Kant, an out of joint ontological excess or clinamen. Žižek takes his bearings here as elsewhere from a Lacanian reading of Kant, and the latters critique of Descartes cogito ergo sum. In the Transcendental Dialectic in The Critique of Pure Reason, Kant criticized Descartes argument that the self-guaranteeing I think of the cogito must be a thinking thing (res cogitans). For Kant (as for Žižek), while the I think must be capable of accompanying all of the subjects perceptions, this does not mean that it is itself such a substantial object. The subject that sees objects in the world cannot see itself seeing, Žižek notes, any more than a person can jump over her own shadow. To the extent that a subject can reflectively see itself, it sees itself not as a subject but as one more represented object, what Kant calls the empirical self or what Žižek calls the self (versus the subject) in The Plague of Fantasies. The subject knows that it is something, Žižek argues. But it does not and can never know what Thing it is in the Real, as he puts it (see 2e). This is why it must seek clues to its identity in its social and political life, asking the question of others (and of the big Other (see 2b)) which Žižek argues defines the subject as such: che voui? (what do you want from me?). In Tarrying With the Negative, Žižek hence reads the Directors Cut of Ridley Scotts Bladerunner as revelatory of the Truth of the subject. Within this version of the film, as Žižek emphasizes, the main character Deckard literally does not know what he isa robot that perceives itself to be human. According to Žižek, the subject is a crack in the universal field or substance of being, not a knowable thing (see 4d). This is why Žižek repeatedly cites in his books the disturbing passage from the young Hegel describing the modern subject not as the light of the modern enlightenment, but this night, this empty nothing

    However false such a sense of freedom is, Žižek insists that it is nevertheless a political instance of what Hegel called an essential appearance. Althussers understanding of ideological identification suggests that an individual is wholly interpellated into a place within a political system by the systems dominant ideology and ideological state apparatuses. Contesting this notion by drawing on Lacanian psychoanalysis, however, Žižek argues that it is a mistake to think that, for a political position to win peoples support, it needs to effectively brainwash them into thoughtless automatons. Rather, Žižek maintains that any successful political ideology always allows subjects to have and to cherish a conscious distance towards its explicit ideals and prescriptionsor what he calls, in a further technical term, ideological disidentification. Again bringing the psychoanalytic theory of Lacan to bear in political theory, Žižek argues that the attitude of subjects towards authority revealed by todays ideological cynicism resembles the fetishists attitude towards his fetish. The fetishists attitude towards his fetish has the peculiar form of a disavowal: I know well that (for example) the shoe is only a shoe, but nevertheless, I still need my partner to wear the shoe in order to enjoy. According to Žižek, the attitude of political subjects towards political authority evinces the same logical form: I know well that (for example) Bob Hawke / Bill Clinton / the Party / the market does not always act justly, but I still act as though I did not know that this is the case. In Althussers famous Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses, Althusser staged a kind of primal scene of ideology, the moment when a policeman (as bearer of authority) says hey you! to an individual, and the individual recognizes himself as the addressee of this call. In the 180 degree turn of the individual towards this Other who has addressed him, the individual becomes a political subject, Althusser says. Žižeks central technical notion of the big Other [grand Autre] closely resemblesto the extent that it is not modelled on Althussers notion of the Subject (capital S) in the name of which public authorities (like the police) can legitimately call subjects to account within a regimefor example, God in a theocracy, the Party under Stalinism, or the People in todays China. As the central chapter of The Sublime Object of Ideology specifies, ideologies for Žižek work to identify individuals with such important or rallying political terms as these, which Žižek calls master signifiers. The strange but decisive thing about these pivotal political words, according to Žižek, is that no one knows exactly what they mean or refer to, or has ever seen with their own eyes the sacred objects which they seem to name (for example: God, the Nation, or the People). This is one reason why Žižek, in the technical language he inherits (via Lacan) from structuralism, says that the most important words in any political doctrine are signifiers without a signified (that is, words that do not refer to any clear and distinct concept or demonstrable object). We saw how Žižek claims that the truth of political ideologies concerns what they do, not what they say (2d). At the level of what political ideologies say, Žižek maintains, a Lacanian critical theory maintains that ideologies must be finally inconsistent. Freud famously talked of the example of a man who returns a borrowed kettle back to its owner broken. 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. As Žižek reads political ideologies, they function in the same way in the political fieldthis is the sense of the subtitle of his 2004 Iraq: The Borrowed Kettle. As we saw in 2d, Žižek maintains that the end of political ideologies is to secure and defend the idea of the polity as a wholly unified community. 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. In what amounts to a kind of political theodicy, Žižeks work points to a number of logically inconsistent ideological responses to political discontents, which are united only by the desire that informs them, like Freuds kettle logic: One of Žižeks most difficult, but also deepest, claims is that the particular sublime objects of ideology with which subjects identify in different regimes (the Nation, the People, and so forth) each give particular form to a meta-law (law about all other laws) that binds any political community as such. This is the meta-law that says simply that subjects must obey all the other laws. In 2b above, we saw how Žižek holds that political ideologies must allow subjects the sense of subjective distance from their explicit directives. Žižeks critical position is that this apparent freedom ideologies thereby allow subjects is finally a lure. Like the choice offered Yossarian by the catch 22 of Joseph Hellers novel, the only option truly available to political subjects is to continue to abide by the laws. No regime can survive if it waives this meta-law. The Sublime Object of Ideology hence cites with approval Kafkas comment that it is not required that subjects think the law is just, only that it is necessary. Yet no regime, despite Kafka, can directly avow its own basis in such naked self-assertion without risking the loss of all legitimacy, Žižek agrees with Plato. This is why it must ground itself in ideological fantasies (3a) which at once sustain subjects sense of individual freedom (2c) and the sense that the regime itself is grounded extra-politically in the Real, and some transcendent, higher Good (2e).

    Žižeks understanding of political belief is modelled on Lacans understanding of transference in psychoanalysis. The belief or supposition of the analysand in psychoanalysis is that the Other (his analyst) knows the meaning of his symptoms. This is obviously a false belief, at the start of the analytic process. But it is only through holding this false belief about the analyst that the work of analysis can proceed, and the transferential belief can become true (when the analyst does become able to interpret the symptoms). Žižek argues that this strange intersubjective or dialectical logic of belief in clinical psychoanalysis also what characterizes peoples political beliefs. Belief is always belief through the Other, Žižek argues. If subjects do not know the exact meaning of those master signifiers with which they political identify, this is because their political belief is mediated through their identifications with others. Although they each themselves do not know what they do (which is the title one of Žižeks books [Žižek, 2002]), the deepest level of their belief is maintained through the belief that nevertheless there are Others who do know. A number of features of political life are cast into new relief given this psychoanalytic understanding, Žižek claims:

    In the struggle of competing political ideologies, Žižek hence agrees with Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe, the aim of each is to elevate their particular political perspective (about what is just, best, and so forth) to the point where it can lay claim to name, give voice to or to represent the political whole (for example: the nation). In order to achieve this political feat, Žižek argues, each group must succeed in identifying its perspective with the extra-political, sublime objects accepted within the culture as giving body to this whole (for example: the national interest, the dictatorship of the proletariat). Or else, it must supplant the previous ideologies sublime objects with new such objects. In the absolute monarchies, as Ernst Kantorowicz argued, the Kings so called second or symbolic body exemplified paradigmatically such sublime political objects as the unquestionable font of political authority (the particular individual who was King was contestable, but not the sovereigns role itself). Žižeks critique of Stalinism, in a comparable way, turns upon the thought that the Party had this sublime political status in Stalinist ideology. Class struggle in this society did not end, Žižek contends, despite Stalinist propaganda. It was only displaced from a struggle between two classes (for example, bourgeois versus proletarian) to one between the Party as representative of the people or the whole and all who disagreed with it, ideologically positioned as traitors or enemies of the people.

    With these terms of Žižeks Lacanian ontology in place, it becomes possible to lay out Žižeks theoretical understanding of the differences between different types of ideological-political regimes. Žižeks works maintain a lasting distinction between modern and premodern political regimes, which he contends are grounded in fundamentally different ways of organizing subjects relations to Law and jouissance (3a). In Žižeks Lacanian terms, premodern ideological regimes exemplified what Lacan calls in Seminar XVII the discourse of the master. In these authoritarian regimes, the word and will of the King or master (in Žižeks mathemes, S1) was sovereignthe source of political authority, with no questions asked. Her/His subjects, in turn, are supposed to know (S2) the edicts of the sovereign and the Law (as the classical legal notion has it, ignorance is no excuse). In this arrangement, while jouissance and fantasy are political factors, as Žižek argues, regimes quasi-transgressive practices remain exceptional to the political arena, glimpsed only in such carnivalesque events as festivals or the types of public punishment Michel Foucault (for example) describes in the introduction to Discipline and Punish.

    For Žižek, fantasy as such is always fundamentally the fantasy of (ones) origins. In Freuds Wolf Man case, to cite the psychoanalytic example Žižek cites in For They Know Not What They Do, the primal scene of parental coitus is the Wolf Mans attempt to come to terms with his own originor to answer the infants perennial question where did I come from? The problem here is this: who could the spectacle of this primal scene have been staged for or seen by, if it really transpired before the genesis of the subject that it would explain (see 3e, 4e)? The only answer is that the Wolf Man has imaginatively transposed himself back into the primal scene if only as an impassive object-gazewhose historical occurrence he had yet hoped would explain his origin as an individual. Žižeks argument is that, in the same way, political or ideological systems cannot and do not avoid deep inconsistencies. No less than Machiavelli, Žižek is acutely aware that the act that founds a body of Law is never itself legal, according to the very order of Law it sets in place. He cites Bertolt Brecht: what is the robbing of a bank, compared to the founding of a bank? What fantasy does, in this register, is to try to historically renarrativize the founding political act as if it were or had been legalan impossible application of the Law before the Law had itself come into being. No less than the Wolf Mans false transposition of himself back into the primal scene that was to explain his origin, Žižek argues that the attempt of any political regime to explain its own origins in a political myth that denies the fundamental, extralegal violence of these origins is fundamentally false. (Žižek uses the example of the liberal myth of primitive accumulation to illustrate his position in For They Know Not What They Do, but we could cite here Platos myth of the reversed cosmos in the Laws and Statesman, or historical cases like the idea of terra nullius in colonial Australia). the coordination [between subjects in a political community] concerns not the level of the signified [of some positive shared concern] but the level of the signifier. [In political ideologies], undecidability with regard to the signified (do others really intend the same as me?) converts into an exceptional signifier, the empty Master-Signifier, the signifier-without-signified. Nation, Democracy, Socialism and other Causes stand for that something about which we are never sure what, exactly, it is - the point is, rather, that identifying with the Nation we signal our acceptance of what others accept, with a Master-Signifier which serves as the rallying point for all the others. (Žižek, 1996: 142)

    Žižeks contention is that this argument does not prove the immortality of a disembodied soul. It proves the immortality of an embodied individual soul, always struggling guiltily against its selfish corporeal impulses (this, incidentally, is one reason why Žižek argues, after Lacan, that de Sade is the truth of Kant). In order to make his proof even plausible, Žižek notes, Kant has to tacitly smuggle the spatiotemporal parameters of embodied earthly existence into the postulated hereafter so that the guilty subject can continue endlessly to struggle against his radically evil nature towards good. In this way, though, Kant himself has to speak as if he knew what things are like on the other side of deathwhich is to say, from the impossible, because impossibly neutral, perspective of someone able to impassively see the spectacle of the immortal subject striving guiltily towards the good (see 4d). But in this way, also, Žižek argues that Kant enacts exactly the type of fantasmatic operation his reading of the fall (as a) narrative declaims, and which represents in nuce the basis operation also of all political ideologies. This thought underlies the importance Žižek accords in For They Know Not What They Do to Hegels difficult notion of tautology as the highest instance of contradiction in The Science of Logic. If you push a subject hard enough about why they abide by the laws of their regime, Žižek holds that their responses will inevitably devolve into some logical variant of Exodus 3:14s I am that I am statements of the form because the Law (God / the People/ the Nation) is the Law (God / the People / the Nation). In such tautological statements, our expectation that the predicates in the second half of the sentence will add something new to the (logical) subject given at its beginning is contradicted, Hegel argues. There is indeed something even sinister when someone utters such a sentence in response to our enquiries, Žižek notesas if, when (for example) the Law is repeated dumbly as its own predicate (because the law is the law), it intimates the uncanny dimension of jouissance the law as ego ideal usually proscribes (3a). What this uncanny effect of sense attests to, Žižek argues in For They Know Not What They Do, is the usually primordially repressed force of the universal meta-law (that everyone must obey the laws) being expressed in the different, particular languages of political regimes: because the People are the People, because the Nation is the Nation, and so forth.

    It is crucial to Žižeks position, though, that Žižek denies the apparent implication of this that the subject is some kind of supersensible entity, for example, an immaterial and immortal soul, and so forth. The subject is not a special type of Thing outside of the phenomenal reality we can experience, for Žižek. As we saw in 1e above, such an idea would in fact reproduce in philosophy the type of thinking which, he argues, characterizes political ideologies and the subjects fundamental fantasy (see 3a). It is more like a fold or crease in the surface of this reality, as Žižek puts it in Tarrying With the Negative, the point within the substance of reality wherein that substance is able to look at itself, and see itself as alien to itself. According to Žižek, Hegel and Lacan add to Kants reading of the subject as the empty I think that accompanies any individuals experience the caveat that, because objects thus appear to a subject, they always appear in an incomplete or biased way. Žižeks formula of the fundamental fantasy (see 2a, 2d) $ <> a tries to formalize exactly this thought. Its meaning is that the subject ($), in its fundamental fantasy, misrecognizes itself as a special object (the objet petit a or lost object (see 2a)) within the field of objects that it perceives. In terms which unite this psychoanalytic notion with Žižeks political philosophy, we can say that the objet petit a is exactly a sublime object (2e). It is an object that is elevated or, in Freudian terms, sublimated by the subject to the point where it stands as a metonymic representative of the jouissance the subject unconsciously fantasizes was taken from her/him at castration (3a). It hence functions as the object-cause of the subjects desire that exceptional little piece of the Real that s/he seeks out in all of her/his love relationships. Its psychoanalytic paradigms are, to cite the title of a collection Žižek edited, the voice and gaze as love objects. Examples of the voice as object petit a include the persecutors voice in paranoia, or the very silence that some TV advertisements now use, and which captures our attention by making us wonder whether we may not have missed something. The preeminent Lacanian illustration of the gaze as object petit a is the anamorphotic skull at the foot of Holbeins Ambassadors, which can only be seen by a subject who looks at it awry, or from an angle. Importantly, then, neither the voice nor the gaze as objet petit a attest to the subjects sovereign ability to wholly objectify (and hence control) the world it surveys. In the auditory and visual fields (respectively), the voice and the gaze as objet petit a represent objects like Kants sublime things that the subject cannot wholly get its head around, as we say. The fact that they can only be seen or heard from particular perspectives indicates exactly how the subjects biased perspectiveand so his/her desire, what s/he wantshas an effect on what s/he is able to see. They thereby bear witness to how s/he is not wholly outside of the reality s/he sees. Even the most mundane but telling example of this subjective objet petit a of Lacanian theory is someone in love, of whom we commonly say that they are able to see in their lover something special, an X factor, which others are utterly blind to. In the political field, similarlyand as we saw in part 2csubjects of a particular political community will claim that others cannot understand their regimes sublime objects. Indeed, as Žižek comments about the resurgence of racism across the first world today, it is often precisely the strangeness of others particular ethnic or national Things that animates subjects hatred towards them.

    Žižek argues that the first place that the objet petit a appeared in the history of Western philosophy was with Kants notion of the transcendental object in The Critique of Pure Reason. Analyzing this Kantian notion allows us to elaborate more precisely the ontological status of the objet petit a. Kant defines the transcendental object as the completely indeterminate thought of an object in general. Like the objet petit a, then, Kants transcendental object is not a normal phenomenal object, although it has a very specific function in Kants epistemological conception of the subject. The avowedly anti-Humean function of this Kantian positing in the Transcendental Deduction is to ensure that the purely formal categories of the subjects understanding can actually affect and indeed structure the manifold of the subjects sensuous intuition. As Žižek stresses, that is, the transcendental object functions in Kants epistemology to guarantee that sense will continue to emerge for the subject, no matter what particular objects s/he might encounter.

    This is the sense also in which Žižek claims in Plague of Fantasies that todays virtual reality is not virtual enough. It is not virtual enough because the many options it offers subjects to enjoy (jouis) are transgressive or exotic possibilities. VR leaves nothing to the imagination or, in Žižeks Lacanian terms, to fantasy. Fantasy, as we saw in 2a, operates to structure subjects beliefs about the jouissance which must remain only the stuff of imagination, purely virtual for subjects of the social law. For Žižek, then, it is identification with this law, as mediated via subjects anticipatory identifications with what they suppose others believe, that involves true virtuality.

    • Žižek believes that the left is losing. While many right-leaning commentators in the West see a resurgent left in the growth of the welfare state and ascendance of political correctness and “woke” politics, Žižek sees the opposite.
    • Žižek believes that most people are boring idiots. Part of what has made Žižek famous is that he doesn’t mince words. Similar to actual revolutionaries such as Che Guevara, Žižek believes that identity politics and things like the LGBT movement are actually bourgeois affectations that distract – and actively undermine – class consciousness and class struggle.
    • Žižek considers himself a “faithful Christian” even though he is an atheist. Žižek considers himself to be a Christian atheist. Although many would call this a contradiction, he believes in his own version of Christianity.
    • Žižek believes we are all ideological beings. Marx considered ideology to be “false consciousness” and simply one of the ways in which people can be tied down and lose sight of their class interests.
  2. Slavoj Žižek, (born March 21, 1949, Ljubljana, Yugoslavia [now in Slovenia]), Slovene philosopher and cultural theorist whose works addressed themes in psychoanalysis, politics, and popular culture.

  3. Jul 21, 2021 · Slavoj Žižek, a maverick philosopher, is the author of over thirty books and has been acclaimed as both the "Elvis of cultural theory" and the "most dangerous philosopher in the West." Filed Under Environment

  4. Jun 11, 2021 · Slavoj Žižek is one of the most controversial left-wing thinkers in the world today. For fans, he’s a figure worthy of rapturous praise and entire journals devoted to studying his thought. For detractors , he’s a charlatan and a clown — a nose-grabbing, Lacan-citing, cartoonish emblem of everything that is wrong with out-of-touch, superficially radical continental philosophy.

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    Slavoj Žižek nació en Ljubljana, actual Eslovenia, el 21 de marzo de 1949, en una familia de clase media yugoslava. Žižek pasó la mayor parte de su infancia viviendo en Portorož, en donde tuvo la oportunidad de conocer sobre teorías, cultura popular y películas venidas desde Occidente. Llegada su adolescencia, la familia de Žižek se volvió a Ljubljana, en donde el joven Slavoj cursó sus estudios en el Instituto de Bežigrad.

    Durante la década de los 60’, Yugoslavia se enfrascó en una serie de medidas impuestas por el presidente Josip Broz Tito que permitieron ciertos aires de liberalización en el país socialista. Gracias a ello, Žižek tuvo la oportunidad de estudiar filosofía y sociología en la Universidad de Ljubljana. Durante sus años universitarios, Žižek tuvo la oportunidad de establecer contacto con algunos disidentes intelectuales, además de publicar en revistas alternativas como Praxis, Tribuna y Problemi. En 1971 fue aceptado para trabajar en el ámbito de la investigación de forma fija, sin embargo, fue rechazado al final debido a que las autoridades consideraron que la tesis de su máster se desmarcaba del marxismo. En los años posteriores realizó el servicio militar en el ejército yugoslavo en Karlovac.

    Žižek ha tenido una prolífica vida intelectual traduciendo al esloveno las obras de grandes pensadores como Sigmund Freud, Jacques Lacan y Louis Althusser. En 1979 ingresó en el departamento de sociología del Instituto de Ciencias Sociales de la Universidad de Ljubljana. A finales de los años setenta fundó junto con otros colegas psicoanalistas yugoslavos la Sociedad de Psicoanálisis Teórico. En 1985 Žižek obtuvo el doctorado de filosofía en psicoanálisis en la Universidad de París VIII. Su apellido se volvió famoso a nivel mundial en 1989 con la publicación de su primer libro en inglés: The Sublime Object of Ideology. Además, ha colaborado en varios periódicos como los norteamericanos Lacanian Ink y In These Times, The New Left y The London Review of Books en Reino Unido, además de varias revistas en su natal Eslovenia. En 2007 se fundó la International Journal of Žižek Studies, una revista de investigación Open Access que ha llegado a ser la inspiración de la creación de cuatro óp...

    Desde finales de los 80, Žižek se volvió conocido por ser columnista en la revista alternativa juvenil Mladina, en la cual se mostraba una visión crítica con las medidas del presidente Tito y, en especial, con la militarización de la sociedad. Žižek fue miembro del partido comunista esloveno hasta el año 1988, sin embargo, ese año renunció junto con otros 32 intelectuales eslovenos como protesta por el juicio político JBTZ, en el que se condenó a cuatro redactores de periódico por haberse msotrado críticos con el ejército yugoslavo. A finales de la década de los 80 participó en varios movimientos sociales y políticos en los cuales se pedía la llegada de la democracia al país eslavo, participando en el Comité para la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos. En las primeras elecciones libres que se llevaron en Eslovenia, Žižek se presentó como el candidato del Partido Liberal Demócrata para la presidencia del país. Uno de los motivos por los que se enroló en este partido y no otros más cercan...

    Slavoj Žižek tiene un hijo y se ha casado un total de tres veces: primero con una filósofa eslovena, Renata Saleci, después con una modelo Analia Houlie, y finalmente con Jela Krečič. Es hablante fluido de esloveno, serbocroata, francés, alemán e inglés.

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