- Category: News & Analysis
- Created on Monday, 17 March 2008 15:06
- Written by Zerohour
Kasama received the following report from philosopher Slavoj Žižek's March 11 talk at the CUNY Graduate Center, “Resist, Attack, Undermine… Where Are We 40 Years After ’68?” Feel free to add your own recollections, notes and links to reports of this event.
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I didn’t take notes but it was far livelier and more interesting than Wolff’s presentation. More importantly, it was grounded in the present. I’ll put down my fragmented memories, maybe someone else can fill in the gaps and/or correct my impressions:
- Critique of ideology is a central concern for him. Keep in mind he does not use “ideology” in the commonly accepted sense, to refer to a set of ideas. He uses ideology the way Marx does, as a central component of “false consciousness”. In Marx’s usage, ideology is counterposed to “science”.
- He hated the movie I Am Legend but loved the original book. At the end of the movie we see a re-insertion of Christian themes [mother and child with a mysterious sense of purpose] combined with a romanticism of gated communities. The book’s ending, he is killed by the vampire-zombie things and becomes a legend for them just as they were once legends for us. He also refers to the movie They Live [an awesome movie] as a great example of ideology critique in film. He uses the movie’s metaphor of the glasses a bit [”Put on the glasses!”]
- Refers to “masturbathon” [tells a couple of jokes here - how can one resist?] and internet use as instances where atomized activity paradoxically involves large numbers of people - “social isolation” as normal mode of being
- The dark secret of the left is the “fear of really finding the revolutionary subject” which is really the fear of exercising power, in particular state power. [My comments now] I found this interesting that he brought the psychological element of “fear” into the discussion. Usually when we have political debate, it revolves around two axes: conceptual clarity or factual accumulation. Are conceptual clarity and a sufficient amount of facts all that are needed for a revolutionary strategy? Mao touched on this insufficiency with his slogan: “Dare to struggle, dare to win.” But the [western] left in general does not dare. Suggestive of how psychoanalysis might play a part in political prognosis[Back to Zizek] He gives an account of Lacan telling the Paris protesters in 68: “You are just aestheticians looking for a new master; and you will have one.” Underneath the great slogans, the kinetic energy and the millions of people in the streets, Lacan saw what DeGaulle saw: the fear of exercising power.
- Whereas Foucault advocated suspicion of power, and resistance to it, we must begin to think about how to exercise it. Someone gave him an example of Chavez as popular power, and Zizek agreed but reminded them that Chavez is one man with a state apparatus who is not afraid to use it to enforce an agenda [Zizek critically supports Chavez]
- Refers to the Lavalas government of Aristide as an example of “dictatorship of the proletariat” in the sense that this party was always responsive to the people
- Makes a case for communism [calls himself a “communist”] deriving from a sense of “the commons”; identifies four key antagonisms [interestingly, not “contradictions”]: bioethics [intellectual property], ecology, enclosure [gated communities], and the fourth relates to the conditions of the people [slums].
- Says that, for Marx “proletariat” is not synonymous with “working class” but refers to the concept of “substance without essence” - from Descartes?
- Identifies as a “Leninist” but “which Lenin”? He tells a joke here: Someone asks Marx, Engels and Lenin which they would rather have, a wife or a mistress? Marx is more socially conservative, so he says “a wife”. Engels is a bon vivant so he says “a mistress.” Lenin says “both.” But what will you do with them? Lenin says” “I will tell the wife about the mistress, and the mistress about the wife.” Then what will you do? Lenin says: “Then I will learn, learn, learn.” Zizek likes that Lenin was not afraid to get into a messy situation to come out the other side.
I’m sure there’s more than I’ve related here, and I can’t verify my accuracy but I’m pretty confident I’ve captured some sense of the event.