So, um… Wednesday, November 14, 2012 ~ Adam Kotsko Should we talk about this Zizek piece on the election? It’s a weird one! Share this:FacebookTwitterRedditTumblrPinterestEmail Related Published by Adam Kotsko View all posts by Adam Kotsko
12 thoughts on “So, um…”
When has Zizek been interested in “grains of truth”? Was this ghost-written by Rachel Maddow? Zizek the hopeful leftist? This is disorienting.
Certainly rather…problematic…is the supposed “grain of truth” in Trump’s ramblings. I don’t think right-wing anger at Obama is somehow a mirror-image of left-wing anger, such that something could be recuperated or detourned from the former; the Thatcher/New Labour analogy is something non-reciprocal/reversible, I suspect. And Trump’s (and his class’s) idea of revolution is more analogous to burning the Reichstag – precisely heading-off revolution. Does Trump’s foolery (or Obama’s ineffectiveness) at least clarify the battle lines? Perhaps. But is this is all we are to take away from the article?
Here is a totally off the top of my head, unfiltered, next-to-useless reaction: T.S. Eliot is actually American.
The Jackson Pollock of journalism (and even academia), Zizek in a case of his common practice of throwing words to see where they land, and publishing them anyway. Too many obvious “questions to which the answer is no” to count there, and images that have little if any substance behind them. (And, FWIW, In Russia, the ground floor is also level one)
The reference to Trump seems to be functioning analogously to his references to Chesterton. Trump’s call for revolution is correct, but needs to be pushed to a limit far beyond Trump’s intentions.
Zizek jumped the shark when he replied to me.
Presumably the grain of truth is that the democratic system is pretty screwed up if… the best it can give us is a toxically gridlocked political class such that even the most common-sense reforms elicit screams of terror? And of course the conservatives are right to scream and howl at Obamacare — because it’s horrifying that such a half-baked nothing should be considered radical?
This piece does fit really well with my explanation of Zizek’s method in these political op-eds — initially identifying with the conservative terms of debate only to reverse them — but it pretty clearly shows the limitation of that method. I’m just not sure what the point of the piece is, at all.
The reference to Trump is a red herring. I actually thought SZ’s point was more simple –that a liberal democracy is supposed to secure a minimum ground floor of things (what the GOP now calls “stuff”) that we can all take for granted. And it’s on this basis that we then work to secure more comprehensive forms of social justice and solidarity. What surprised me about the opinion piece is the non-revolutionary, non-militant, and not-violent posture. Is SZ getting soft? He reads like a liberal here. As a liberal myself, maybe that’s why I liked the piece more than some/most/all of “you.”
Agree with zjb’ bit – I too read a more general “liberal” optimism here (hence the Maddow comment). His tone was so…different. Could this be a combination of two things?
1.) He’s sigh of relief that Obama was elected and Romney wasn’t
2.) He felt he needed to/was asked to crank out a piece about the election?
(I thought his piece on Dark Knight Rises was disappointingly simplistic, but perhaps the movie was something he felt he needed to comment on?)
He’s often said that liberalism provides more favorable conditions for communism — which is also kind of standard Marxism. So even from a radical left position, I can see being relieved the U.S. has avoided total reactionary nihilism, at least for the time being.
What I find confusing is that the more orthodox marxist position (re: the relation between liberalism and communism) cut against the apocalyptic grain which I normally expect to find in Zizek. That’s the head scratcher, for me at least.
I thought the point was that the battle over health care foregrounds the usually invisible background or “ground floor,” moving the political struggle in the US into territory it usually doesn’t occupy and allowing for the formulation of radical demands that will not be made by Obama or the Democratic left but by genuinely revolutionary types who can now point to some of their concerns as live questions in mainstream debates and thus legitimate sites of contestation that will inevitably, if taken seriously, move us beyond liberal or mainstream politics. Thus, it will be seen that communism isn ‘t a matter of removing taken-for-granted social “freedoms,” because now we can actually argue about what basic freedoms are and it has become possible to show that communist “freedoms” are deserving of the name because they condition liberal “freedoms”.
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