Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Always Looking on the Bright Side - Slavoj Zizek, cats and revolutionary unhappiness

Slavoj Zizek must be one of the most popular philosophers working in the Anglophone world.  The Slovenian, who burst on us with The Sublime Object of Ideology in 1989, has a capacity to get work out on a scale and with a rapidity that puts even Terry Eagleton to shame.  Further, Zizek's books are rarely the witty primers that, it must be said, Eagleton can probably write in his sleep and spends half his time producing: they are fat and complex melanges of Hegel and Lacan (pre-eminently) that happily discuss an astonishing range of philosophical, cultural and political phenomena.  Colin MacCabe once famously said of Fredric Jameson that 'nothing cultural is foreign to him', and one could say the same of Zizek, who cheerfully engages in film-making, public discussion of almost anything under the sun, and developing the largest body of jokes by any intellectual I know of in recent times - a collection of them having recently been published.  Not for Zizek Adorno's mandarin melancholy, though he shows some of the same mordancy in the interview linked below.  In a different - simpler - way from Adorno, too, Zizek is a provocateur - rehabilitating Lenin, to the horror of his liberal or soft-left admirers, or saying nice things about Stalin just to make everyone nervous; performing astonishing feats of public lecturing (for the Irish, it would be fair to say that Zizek in full flow is a bit like Christy Moore: a storm in a t-shirt) combined with physical tics that would make you want never to sit beside him on the bus; and a bracingly dialectical willingness to contemplate the whole world in terms of its opposites.  Like Adorno, however, Zizek has not always been so clear-eyed about Israel and Palestine: one notes his support for the academic boycott in the interview below, while he is also desperately anxious to say he does not believe in some kind of blanket boycott of Israel (whatever that would be).  Further, in regard to the politics of the former Yugoslavia, he is sometimes troubling, having supported the bombing of Serbia by NATO.  Like Adorno, too, Zizek is happy in his unhappiness, and the web-conversation recorded on the Guardian recently captures much of the fertility of his wit and knowledge.

"I'd tax cats. Heavily" - Slavoj Zizek



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