‘True political miracle’: Slavoj Žižek on UK General Election outcome

Žižek on UK General Election outcome:

[June 13th 2017.]

Reading Žižek – Where to Start?

Slavoj Žižek: The secret to Corbyn's success was rejecting PC culture as much as he rejected rabble-rousing populism

The fact that such an approach amounts to no less than a major shift in our political space is a sad sign of the times we live in. But it shows where we can go from here

Jeremy Corbyn refused to get caught in dirty games; instead, he simply addressed the main issues and concerns of ordinary people BBC/PA

The unexpected electoral success of the Labour Party has put to shame the predominant cynical wisdom of the connoisseurs, even those who pretended to sympathise with Corbyn and whose preferred excuse was: “Yes, I would vote for him, but he is unelectable, the people are too manipulated and afraid, the moment is not yet right for such a radical move.”

Recall Tony Blair’s claim that under Corbyn the Labour Party is irredeemably marginalised, no longer a potential party of government. The hypocrisy of such statements is that they mask their own political stance as a resigned insight into the objective state of things.

There are, of course, problems and doubts that persist. One should not only confront the limitations of Corbyn’s programme – does it reach beyond the old welfare state, would the Labour government survive the onslaught of global capital? At a more radical level, one should not be afraid to raise the key question: is electoral victory still the key moment of a radical social change? Do we not witness the growing irrelevance of our electoral processes?

But what matters beyond the actual result is the deeper significance of the (relative) success of the Labour Party. This success amounts to a major ethical and political shift, a strong move against the vulgarisation of our public speech. The problem here is the one that Hegel called Sittlichkeit: mores, the thick background of (unwritten) rules of social life, the thick and impenetrable ethical substance that tells us what we can and what we cannot do.

Read the full article here.

See also:

‘True political miracle’: Slavoj Žižek on UK General Election outcome 


Reading Žižek – Where to Start?

Would it be awkward for me if Lacan were alive today? Definitely!

"Would it be awkward for me if Lacan were alive today? Definitely! Because he was such an opportunist. And he would not have liked my direction. Theoretically, he was completely anti-Hegelian. But I try to prove that, without being aware of it, he was actually a Hegelian.
Let me give you a metaphoric formula. Deleuze says that, in contrast to other interpreters, he anally penetrates the philosopher, because it’s immaculate conception. You produce a monster. I’m trying to do what Deleuze forgot to do – to bugger Hegel, with Lacan so that you get a monstrous Hegel, which is, for me, precisely the underlying radical dimension of subjectivity which then, I think, was missed by Heidegger. But again, the basic idea being this mutual reading, this mutual buggering of this focal point, radical negativity and so on, of German Idealism with the very fundamental (Germans have this nice term, grundeswig) insight of psychoanalysis.

I'm critical of Marx. Ideology is not so-called "superstructure", a shadowy realm and real things are happening elsewhere. For me, the core of Marx's theory of ideology is not to be found in the German Ideology, and those stupid, simplistic, youthful works, which are totally outdated. But in Capital, when Marx speaks about commodity fetishism, he speaks about fetishism as some kind of ideology, even if he doesn't use the term ideology. Here Marx outgrew his early simplicities, the distinction between the economic base and the ideological superstructure. This is the lesson of this crisis. Even intelligent neo-conservatives recognise that we are in deadlock and there is no way out. Someone like Fukuyama asks to what extent the functioning of the economy rests on people's ideological attitudes - whether they trust each other, what they think and so on. One big false rumour can practically ruin a small country today. So, I'm not saying that everything dissolves into psychology or whatever. No, the trick is precisely to see what extent the economy itself, in order to function, has to rely on the fact of ideological attitudes. And this is what fascinates me."

from Slavoj Zizek: I am not the world’s hippest philosopher!

Reading Žižek – Where to Start?

Slavoj Žižek along with Julian Assange will Talk at Meltdown Festival hosted by M.I.A. on June 11th

M.I.A. will host a talk with Assange (who will appear remotely over a live link), along with philosophers Slavoj Žižek and Srećko Horvat.

The discussion, titled “What’s Coming Next,” will “cover the complexities of global activism and art in a changing world,” according to a rep for the festival’s venue. The talk will go down from 10:30-11:45 a.m. on June 11 at the Weston Roof Pavilion of the Royal Festival Hall in the Southbank Centre.


Slavoj Zizek: Love beyond Law

The Lacanian Subject not only provides an excellent introduction into the fundamental coordinates of Jacques Lacan's conceptual network; it also proposes original solutions to (or at least clarifications of) some of the crucial dilemmas left open by Lacan's work. The principal two among them are the notion of "love beyond Law" mentioned by Lacan in the very last page of his Seminar XI, 1 and the no less enigmatic thesis of the late Lacan according to which, at the end of psychoanalytic treatment, the subject becomes its own cause. Since these two points run against the predominant doxa on Lacan (love as a narcissistic misrecognition which obscures the truth of desire; the irreducibly decentred status of the subject), it is well worth the while to elaborate them.

"Love beyond Law" involves a "feminine" sublimation of drives into love. As Bruce Fink emphasizes again and again, love is here no longer merely a narcissistic (mis)recognition to be opposed to desire as the subject's 'truth' but a unique case of direct asexual sublimation (integration into the order of the signifier) of drives, of their jouissance, in the guise of the asexual Thing (music, religion, etc.) experienced in the ecstatic surrender. 2 What one should bear in mind apropos of this love beyond Law, this direct asexual sublimation of drive, is that it is inherently nonsensical, beyond meaning: meaning can only take place within the (symbolic) Law; the moment we trespass the domain of Law, meaning changes into enjoy-meant, jouis-sense.3

Insofar as, according to Lacan, at the conclusion of psychoanalytic treatment, the subject assumes the drive beyond fantasy and beyond (the Law of) desire, this problematic also compels us to confront the question of the conclusion of treatment in all its urgency. If we discard the discredited standard formulas ("reintegration into the symbolic space", etc.), only two options remain open: desire or drive. That is to say, either we conceive the conclusion of treatment as the assertion of the subject's radical openness to the enigma of the Other's desire no longer veiled by fantasmatic formations, or we risk the step beyond desire itself and adopt the position of the saint who is no longer bothered by the Other's desire as its decentred cause. In the case of the saint, the subject, in an unheard-of way, "causes itself", becomes its own cause. Its cause is no longer decentred, i.e., the enigma of the Other's desire no longer has any hold over it. How are we to understand this strange reversal on which Fink is quite justified to insist? In principle, things are clear enough: by way of positing itself as its own cause, the subject fully assumes the fact that the object-cause of its desire is not a cause that precedes its effects but is retroactively posited by the network of its effects: an event is never simply in itself traumatic, it only becomes a trauma retroactively, by being 'secreted' from the subject's symbolic space as its inassimilable point of reference. In this precise sense, the subject "causes itself" by way of retroactively positing that X which acts as the object-cause of its desire. This loop is constitutive of the subject. That is, an entity that does not 'cause itself' is precisely not a subject but an object. 4 However, one should avoid conceiving this assumption as a kind of symbolic integration of the decentred Real, whereby the subject 'symbolizes', assumes as an act of its free choice, the imposed trauma of the contingent encounter with the Real. One should always bear in mind that the status of the subject as such is hysterical: the subject 'is' only insofar as it confronts the enigma of Che vuoi? - "What do you want?" - insofar as the Other's desire remains impenetrable, insofar as the subject doesn't know what kind of object it is for the Other. Suspending this decentring of the cause is thus strictly equivalent to what Lacan called "subjective destitution", the de- hystericization by means of which the subject loses its status as subject.

The most elementary matrix of fantasy, of its temporal loop, is that of the "impossible" gaze by means of which the subject is present at the act of his/her own conception. What is at stake in it is the enigma of the Other's desire: by means of the fantasy-formation, the subject provides an answer to the question, 'What am I for my parents, for their desire?' and thus endeavours to arrive at the 'deeper meaning' of his or her existence, to discern the Fate involved in it. The reassuring lesson of fantasy is that "I was brought about with a special purpose".5 Consequently, when, at the end of psychoanalytic treatment, I "traverse my fundamental fantasy", the point of it is not that, instead of being bothered by the enigma of the Other's desire, of what I am for the others, I "subjectivize" my fate in the sense of its symbolization, of recognizing myself in a symbolic network or narrative for which I am fully responsible, but rather that I fully assume the uttermost contingency of my being. The subject becomes 'cause of itself' in the sense of no longer looking for a guarantee of his or her existence in another's desire.

Another way to put it is to say that the "subjective destitution" changes the register from desire to drive. Desire is historical and subjectivized, always and by definition unsatisfied, metonymical, shifting from one object to another, since I do not actually desire what I want. What I actually desire is to sustain desire itself, to postpone the dreaded moment of its satisfaction. Drive, on the other hand, involves a kind of inert satisfaction which always finds its way. Drive is non-subjectivized ("acephalic"); perhaps its paradigmatic expressions are the repulsive private rituals (sniffing one's own sweat, sticking one's finger into one's nose, etc.) that bring us intense satisfaction without our being aware of it-or, insofar as we are aware of it, without our being able to do anything to prevent it.

In Andersen's fairy tale The Red Shoes, an impoverished young woman puts on a pair of magical shoes and almost dies when her feet won't stop dancing. She is only saved when an executioner cuts off her feet with his axe. Her still-shod feet dance on, whereas she is given wooden feet and finds peace in religion. These shoes stand for drive at its purest: an 'undead' partial object that functions as a kind of impersonal willing: 'it wants', it persists in its repetitive movement (of dancing), it follows its path and exacts its satisfaction at any price, irrespective of the subject's well-being. This drive is that which is 'in the subject more than herself': although the subject cannot ever 'subjectivize' it, assume it as 'her own' by way of saying 'It is I who want to do this!' it nonetheless operates in her very kernel. 6 As Fink's book reminds us, Lacan's wager is that it is possible to sublimate this dull satisfaction. This is what, ultimately, art and religion are about.

This paper was first published in the Journal for the Psychoanalysis of Culture and Society 1 (1996), 160-61, as a review of Bruce Fink's The Lacanian Subject: Between Language and Jouissance (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995).


1 See Jacques Lacan, The Seminar of Jacques Lacan XI: The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis, 1964, ed. Jacques-Alain Miller, trans. Alan Sheridan (New York: W.W. Norton, 1977), 263-76.

2 See Jacques Lacan, The Seminar of Jacques Lacan XX: On Feminine Sexuality, the Limits of Love and Knowledge, 1972-73 (Encore), ed. Jacques-Alain Miller, trans. Bruce Fink (New York: W.W. Norton, 1998), 64-89.

3 It is at this point that Peter Dews' attempt to enlist the Lacanian problematic of 'love beyond Law' into his project of the 'return to meaning' (see his The Limits of Disenchantment, London and New York: Verso, 1996) falls short: it has to overlook the radical incompatibility of 'love beyond Law' and the field of meaning - i.e., the fact that within the Lacanian conceptual edifice, 'love beyond Law' entails the eclipse of meaning in jouis-sense.

4 As to this paradoxical status of trauma, see Slavoj Zizek, Metastases of Enjoyment: Six Essays on Woman and Causality (London and New York: Verso, 1994), 29-53.

5 We can see, now, in what precise sense a pervert lives his fantasy: in clear contrast to the hysteric (neurotic), the pervert doesn't have any doubt as to what he is for the big Other's desire: he is the instrument of the Other's enjoyment. A simple, but nonetheless poignant, expression of this perverse attitude is found in Hugh Hudson's Chariots of Fire, when the devout Eric Liddel explains his fast running which brought him a gold medal at the 1924 Paris Olympics: "God made me for a purpose, but He also made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure."

6 One should mention here Michael Powell's The Red Shoes, a suicidal variation of the same motif. At the end of the film, the shoes the young ballerina is wearing also take on a life of their own. However, since there is no one there to cut her legs off the shoes carry the ballerina out onto a high balcony from which she is forced to leap onto the railroad tracks where she is hit by a train. The crucial thing this cinematic version adds to Andersen's fairy tale is the opposition between the 'partial drive' embodied in the shoes and the normal sexual desire, i.e., the girl's sexual interest in her partner.

Reading Žižek – Where to Start?

Slavoj Žižek: What is freedom today?

Are we free to live our lives as we want? We might think so, but philosopher Slavoj Žižek argues that this apparent freedom is actually governed by a complex series of conditions.

For Žižek, a 'pathetic, old romantic', the highest form of freedom is in fact love

Reading Žižek – Where to Start?

Slavoj Žižek: Why Be Happy When You Could Be Interesting?

We don't really want what we think we desire, says philosopher Slavoj Žižek.

“Happiness was never important. The problem is that we don't know what we really want. What makes us happy is not to get what we want. But to dream about it. Happiness is for opportunists. So I think that the only life of deep satisfaction is a life of eternal struggle, especially struggle with oneself. If you want to remain happy, just remain stupid. Authentic masters are never happy; happiness is a category of slaves.”

Slavoj Žižek: Don't Act. Just Think. 

Reading Žižek – Where to Start?

Slavoj Žižek: How to Reasonably Believe in God

The inaugural In Situ talk featured artist Janine Antoni and Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek exploring “How to Reasonably Believe in God.” The conversation was moderated by Sister Helen Prejean.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

About Reverend Billy and the Stop Shopping Choir
The Church of Stop Shopping is a project directed by Savitri D. The radical performance community has sung their secular political gospel music in Redwood forests, in the middle of traffic jams in the Holland Tunnel and out in Ferguson, Missouri and Standing Rock. Directed by Savitri D, their direct actions include cash register exorcisms, retail interventions, and cell phone operas. The choir is a diverse array of economic, ethnic, religious, and cultural backgrounds and has members from every continent except Antarctica (but they’re working on it!), and has toured in Europe, Africa, South America and throughout North America. Music director is Nehemiah Luckett.

About Janine Antoni
Janine Antoni is a visual artist born in Freeport, Bahamas 1964. She received a BA from Sarah Lawrence College and an MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design. She is known for her unusual processes. Her body is both her tool for making and the source from which her meaning arises. In each piece, no matter the medium or image, a conveyed physicality speaks directly to the viewer, giving rise to emotional states that are felt in and through the body. She exhibits her work nationally and internationally and is the recipient of several prestigious awards, including a MacArthur Fellowship, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship, Anonymous Was A Woman Grant, Creative Capital Artist Grant and the Pew Center for Arts and Heritage. For ten years she has studied various forms of somatic movement modalities to inform her sculpture. Presently she is collaborating with choreographer Stephen Petronio and legendary movement artist Anna Halprin.

About Sister Helen Prejean
Sister Helen Prejean has been instrumental in sparking national dialogue on the death penalty and helping to shape the Catholic Church’s newly vigorous opposition to state executions. She travels around the world giving talks about her ministry. She considers herself a southern storyteller. Sr. Helen is a member of the Congregation of St. Joseph. She spent her first years with the Sisters teaching religion to junior high school students. Realizing that being on the side of poor people is an essential part of the Gospel she moved into the St. Thomas Housing Project in New Orleans and began working at Hope House from 1981–1984. During this time, she was asked to correspond with a death row inmate Patrick Sonnier at Angola. She agreed and became his spiritual adviser. After witnessing his execution, she wrote a book about the experience. The result was Dead Man Walking: An Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty in the United States. It became a movie, an opera and a play for high schools and colleges. Since 1984, Sister Helen has divided her time between educating citizens about the death penalty and counseling individual death row prisoners. She has accompanied six men to their deaths. In doing so, she began to suspect that some of those executed were not guilty. This realization inspired her second book, The Death of Innocents: An Eyewitness Account of Wrongful Executions, which was released by Random House in 2004. Sr. Helen is presently at work on another book - River of Fire: My Spiritual Journey.

About Slavoj Žižek
One of the world’s most prominent and provocative intellectuals, Žižek is a philosopher, cultural critic and political activist. In his youth he was engaged in fighting Communist regime in his country, while now he declares himself a committed Communist. Žižek has authored more than 75 books on subjects from Lacanian psychoanalysis, Marxist theory, Christian theology, and critique of ideology to cinema theory, but the core of his interest is Hegelian philosophy. Žižek has taught and lectured at universities across the globe and currently holds posts at NYU, Kyung-Hee university in Seoul and the European Graduate School in Switzerland.

Reading Žižek – Where to Start?

Slavoj Žižek: Don't Act. Just Think.

I call it a Bartleby lesson. Bartleby, of course, Herman Melville’s Bartleby, you know, who always answered his favorite “I would prefer not to” . . .


Slavoj Zizek: Capitalism is . . . and this, almost I’m tempted to say is what is great about it, although I’m very critical of it . . . Capitalism is more an ethical/religious category for me. It’s not true when people attack capitalists as egotists. “They don't care.” No! An ideal capitalist is someone who is ready, again, to stake his life, to risk everything just so that production grows, profit grows, capital circulates. His personal or her happiness is totally subordinated to this. This is what I think Walter Benjamin, the great Frankfurt School companion, thinker, had in mind when he said capitalism is a form of religion. You cannot explain, account for, a figure of a passionate capitalist, obsessed with expanded circulation, with rise of his company, in terms of personal happiness.

I am, of course, fundamentally anti-capitalist. But let’s not have any illusions here. No. What shocks me is that most of the critics of today’s capitalism feel even embarrassed, that's my experience, when you confront them with a simple question, “Okay, we heard your story . . . protest horrible, big banks depriving us of billions, hundreds, thousands of billions of common people's money. . . . Okay, but what do you really want? What should replace the system?” And then you get one big confusion. You get either a general moralistic answer, like “People shouldn't serve money. Money should serve people.” Well, frankly, Hitler would have agreed with it, especially because he would say, “When people serve money, money’s controlled by Jews,” and so on, no? So either this or some kind of a Keynesian social democracy, or a simple moralistic critique, and so on and so on. So, you know, it’s easy to be just formally anti-capitalist, but what does it really mean? It’s totally open.

This is why, as I always repeat, with all my sympathy for Occupy Wall Street movement, it’s result was . . . I call it a Bartleby lesson. Bartleby, of course, Herman Melville’s Bartleby, you know, who always answered his favorite “I would prefer not to” . . . The message of Occupy Wall Street is, I would prefer not to play the existing game. There is something fundamentally wrong with the system and the existing forms of institutionalized democracy are not strong enough to deal with problems. Beyond this, they don't have an answer and neither do I. For me, Occupy Wall Street is just a signal. It’s like clearing the table. Time to start thinking.

The other thing, you know, it’s a little bit boring to listen to this mantra of “Capitalism is in its last stage.” When this mantra started, if you read early critics of capitalism, I’m not kidding, a couple of decades before French Revolution, in late eighteenth century. No, the miracle of capitalism is that it’s rotting in decay, but the more it’s rotting, the more it thrives. So, let’s confront that serious problem here.

Also, let’s not remember--and I’m saying this as some kind of a communist--that the twentieth century alternatives to capitalism and market miserably failed. . . . Like, okay, in Soviet Union they did try to get rid of the predominance of money market economy. The price they paid was a return to violent direct master and servant, direct domination, like you no longer will even formally flee. You had to obey orders, a new authoritarian society. . . . And this is a serious problem: how to abolish market without regressing again into relations of servitude and domination.

My advice would be--because I don't have simple answers--two things: (a) precisely to start thinking. Don't get caught into this pseudo-activist pressure. Do something. Let’s do it, and so on. So, no, the time is to think. I even provoked some of the leftist friends when I told them that if the famous Marxist formula was, “Philosophers have only interpreted the world; the time is to change it” . . . thesis 11 on Feuerbach. . . that maybe today we should say, “In the twentieth century, we maybe tried to change the world too quickly. The time is to interpret it again, to start thinking.”

Second thing, I’m not saying people are suffering, enduring horrible things, that we should just sit and think, but we should be very careful what we do. Here, let me give you a surprising example. I think that, okay, it’s so fashionable today to be disappointed at President Obama, of course, but sometimes I’m a little bit shocked by this disappointment because what did the people expect, that he will introduce socialism in United States or what? But for example, the ongoing universal health care debate is an important one. This is a great thing. Why? Because, on the one hand, this debate which taxes the very roots of ordinary American ideology, you know, freedom of choice, states wants to take freedom from us and so on. I think this freedom of choice that Republicans attacking Obama are using, its pure ideology. But at the same time, universal health care is not some crazy, radically leftist notion. It’s something that exists all around and functions basically relatively well--Canada, most of Western European countries.

So the beauty is to select a topic which touches the fundamentals of our ideology, but at the same time, we cannot be accused of promoting an impossible agenda--like abolish all private property or what. No, it’s something that can be done and is done relatively successfully and so on. So that would be my idea, to carefully select issues like this where we do stir up public debate but we cannot be accused of being utopians in the bad sense of the term.

Reading Žižek – Where to Start?

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