It seems that every time a new Zizek article comes out, everyone starts wringing their hands about what a conservative Zizek is. In response to this piece on Greece, for example, we supposedly find that he’s sympathetic with right-wing anti-immigration policies and generally dreams of a day when Europe will be the center of all the world.
This is partly Zizek’s fault, insofar as he has chosen an indirect method of making his points in the political arena. Yet it frustrates me when academics make this critique, because he’s given us the key! It’s basically the “Laibach strategy” — mime the dominant ideology to such an extreme that you reach its internal contradictions and it begins to break down. For instance, his supposed endorsement of right-wing anti-immigrant sentiment: already in Tarrying With the Negative (widely regarded as his “best” book!), he had said that ethnic conflicts covered over the contradictions of capital, and liberals opportunistically indulge them as a kind of “release valve” for those economic pressures. So yes, the anti-immigrant people “have a point,” but it’s not the “point” they think they have — the “real problem” that immigration points toward is the artificial scarcity generated by global capital!
It’s similar when he quotes cultural conservatives like Chesterton and Eliot. While everyone apparently thinks that he quotes Chesterton out of a deep love and approval of his work, he’s pushing Chesterton to a point he wouldn’t want to embrace — namely, to claim that the real “Christian legacy” (note again that this is a key way of legitimating anti-Muslim racism in the context of the EU project) is… radical atheism! Similar, notice how when he talks about the need to preserve the “European legacy,” it’s always about egalitarianism, democracy, atheism, etc. — none of which is central to the current EU project or to conservative evocations of the precious European heritage.
People get all up in arms about these types of statements, as though what’s really important to him is that Christian Europe is the only possible source of good things — but the point is precisely to undermine the ruling right-wing ideology from within. He’s saying, “Oh, so you want to be Christian, huh? Well, turns out the true meaning of Christianity is that God is dead. And you want to be European? Well, the only values worth saving from the European heritage are the ones that totally contradict everything you’re doing.”
I would add that the same reading works great for his supposed “Stalinism” — he’s taking the ruling ideology that claims any left-wing project leads directly to the Gulag at its word, then exploding the claim that right-wing and left-wing “totalitarianism” are equivalent.
This is not a counter-intuitive or forced reading. This is not an arbitrary “picking and choosing” of what to regard as mere “provocation” and what to take seriously. He has literally told us the political strategy he embraces, and he’s carrying it out in a completely consistent way.