Debts to Zizek

For some reason, my mind has been drawn over the past few days to what I owe to Zizek, intellectually. I have not kept up with his recent work and have been mostly critical of his political “interventions,” but I think that there are some assumptions that I take from him that inform a great deal of what I am trying to do in my work. None of them require the full Hegelian-Lacanian apparatus to express, and hence I tend not to do that — indeed, some of these things are assumptions that I don’t even necessarily foreground.

  • Every social order is intrinsically incomplete. This is the idea that is variously expressed as the pas-tout (non-all or, as I prefer to translate it, non-whole) or “feminine” logic in Lacanese. I’m not sure I have any basis or need to extend it to the ontological level as Zizek does — though I am intrigued by that idea — but it would certainly apply to any human scientific account.
  • This is because every social order is trying to fix an unfixable problem. This seems to me to be what all the talk of “the Real” is getting at. The reason that social orders fail is that there is no final ground of legitimacy nor any final guarantee of control.
  • Social orders’ attempts to cover over this failure lead to tautology. This is where the Master Signifier comes in — the law is the law, let God be God, sovereign is he who decides on the exception, etc. Every claim to legitimacy is ultimately a tautology, “I am legitimate because I am legitimate.”
  • We get off on ideology. Here we come to the obscene supplement of jouissance, good old objet petit a, and all their friends. The reason ideology “hooks” us is that it gives us permission to enjoy — whether we’re enjoying recognition and a feeling of accomplishment or enjoying the lisence to vent cruelty. Ideology is therefore not just a matter of having wrong ideas or beliefs that can be cleared up through persuasion.

4 thoughts on “Debts to Zizek

  1. Hi Adam,

    I can definitely see what you mean reading your wonderful essay, “Awkwardness.” It seems to me that awkwardness is larglely a “neurotic” phenomenon. For example, your description of “The Office” with its display of hyper intensive work seems to relate to the rituals of the obsessive who tries to postpone the occurence of lack (or of awkwardness). The Apatow style movies, on the other hand, relate to the hysteric’s attempt to keep the lack open, to indulge in awkwardness in order to get whatever answer he wants from the Other. Radical awkwardness is of course the next analytic step and is tantamount to subjective destitution from which the saint, the saint homme (or sinthome) may arise.

    It is maybe rude (and awkward) to introcuce my work here, but I will take the risk:
    I am currently writing a paper on Timur Vermes’s bestseller, “Look Who’s Back” (“Er ist wieder da”) in which I use your texts “Awkwardness” and “Why We Love Sociopaths”. My argument is that Vermes’s novel and film are structured like a fundamental fantasy in an age of decline of the symbolic function, or of what you designated as awkwardness. Following your definitions, I regard Vermes’s Hitler as an awkward sociopath, that is, as exemplifying an awkward social order, while being the object of a fantasy of the potent big Other.

    This is also an opportunity to thank you for your texts and for this blog.

  2. Thank you. I would like very much to share my manuscript with you in order to receive your critique and discuss some issues. Of course I realize you must be very busy but I hope it could be beneficial for both of us,
    Thanks in advance, Orit

  3. I don’t think I will have time to review your manuscript any time soon due to my writing and translation commitments. In any case, I have not thought much about the awkwardness and sociopathy concepts in the last few years, so what I wrote in the books would likely be more interesting than anything I would say to you now.

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