“Maybe there’s something wrong with our notion of paradise” — Slavoj Žižek

In an essay published today at the LRB, Slavoj Žižek addresses the current, disparate waves of protest around the globe and explores the

difference between a reformist and a revolutionary period: in a reformist period, global revolution remains a dream which, if it does anything, merely lends weight to attempts to change things locally; in a revolutionary period, it becomes clear that nothing will improve without radical global change.

Žižek continues:

Where do we stand today with respect to this difference? Are the problems and protests of the last few years signs of an approaching global crisis, or are they just minor obstacles that can be dealt with by means of local interventions? The most remarkable thing about the eruptions is that they are taking place not only, or even primarily, at the weak points in the system, but in places which were until now perceived as success stories. We know why people are protesting in Greece or Spain; but why is there trouble in such prosperous or fast-developing countries as Turkey, Sweden or Brazil? With hindsight, we might see the Khomeini revolution of 1979 as the original ‘trouble in paradise’, given that it happened in a country that was on the fast-track of pro-Western modernisation, and the West’s staunchest ally in the region. Maybe there’s something wrong with our notion of paradise.

If the examples in the above paragraph seem too concrete for a Žižekian riff, don’t worry. Our philosopher addresses what he takes to be the ideological underpinnings of protest:

It is also important to recognise that the protesters aren’t pursuing any identifiable ‘real’ goal. The protests are not ‘really’ against global capitalism, ‘really’ against religious fundamentalism, ‘really’ for civil freedoms and democracy, or ‘really’ about any one thing in particular. What the majority of those who have participated in the protests are aware of is a fluid feeling of unease and discontent that sustains and unites various specific demands. The struggle to understand the protests is not just an epistemological one, with journalists and theorists trying to explain their true content; it is also an ontological struggle over the thing itself, which is taking place within the protests themselves. Is this just a struggle against corrupt city administration? Is it a struggle against authoritarian Islamist rule? Is it a struggle against the privatisation of public space? The question is open, and how it is answered will depend on the result of an ongoing political process.

And an answer, perhaps, to some of these questions:

Only a politics that fully takes into account the complexity of overdetermination deserves to be called a strategy. When we join a specific struggle, the key question is: how will our engagement in it or disengagement from it affect other struggles? The general rule is that when a revolt against an oppressive half-democratic regime begins, as with the Middle East in 2011, it is easy to mobilise large crowds with slogans – for democracy, against corruption etc. But we are soon faced with more difficult choices. When the revolt succeeds in its initial goal, we come to realise that what is really bothering us (our lack of freedom, our humiliation, corruption, poor prospects) persists in a new guise, so that we are forced to recognise that there was a flaw in the goal itself. This may mean coming to see that democracy can itself be a form of un-freedom, or that we must demand more than merely political democracy: social and economic life must be democratised too. In short, what we first took as a failure fully to apply a noble principle (democratic freedom) is in fact a failure inherent in the principle itself. This realisation – that failure may be inherent in the principle we’re fighting for – is a big step in a political education.

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Interrogation II — Leon Golub

golub

Recording the humiliation with a camera, with the perpetrators, a stupid grin on their faces, included in the picture, side by side with the twisted naked bodies of their prisoners, is an integral part of the process…The very positions and costumes of the prisoners suggest a theatrical staging, a kind of tableau vivant, which cannot but bring to mind the whole spectrum of American performance art and ‘theatre of cruelty’ the photos of Mapplethorpe, the weird scenes in David Lynch, to name but two” — Slavoj Žižek on Abu Ghraib (Violence)

Žižek Tells a Dirty Joke

See the Trailer for Slavoj Žižek’s New Film, The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology

Poster

Slavoj Žižek Discusses Philosophy, Topless in Bed (And So On and So On)

Slavoj Žižek: “Really, let me tell you something—It’s nice to sleep with a woman”

Slavoj Žižek Finally Weighs in on Santa Claus

Twelve Things I Loved in 2012

Slavoj Žižek: “Gangnam Style–Do You Follow Me?”

Slavoj Žižek Shows Off His Crib, Including His Bookshelves, His Stalin Poster, and His Kitchen Full of Underwear

Slavoj Žižek on Love, Belief, Snapple

Slavoj Žižek on Interpassivity and VCRs

The other side of this interactivity is interpassivity. The obverse of interacting with the object (instead of just passively following the show) is the situation in which the object itself takes from me, deprives me of, my own passivity, so that it is the object itself which enjoys the show instead of me, relieving me of the duty to enjoy myself. Almost every VCR aficionado who compulsively records movies (myself among them), is well aware that the immediate effect of owning a VCR is that one effectively watches less films than in the good old days of a simple TV set. One never has time for TV, so, instead of losing a precious evening, one simply tapes the film and stores it for a future viewing (for which, of course, there is almost never time). Although I do not actually watch the films, the very awareness that the films I love are stored in my video library gives me a profound satisfaction and, occasionally, enables me to simply relax and indulge in the exquisite art of far’niente – as if the VCR is in a way watching them for me, in my place. VCR stands here for the big Other, the medium of symbolic registration. It seems that, today, even pornography functions more and more in an interpassive way: X-rated movies are no longer primarily the means destined to excite the user for his (or her) solitary masturbatory activity – just staring at the screen where “the action takes place” is sufficient, it is enough for me to observe how others enjoy in the place of me.

Slavoj Žižek in How to Read Lacan.

Slavoj Žižek on Alfred Hitchock’s Vertigo

Slavoj Žižek on Alfred Hitchock’s film Vertigo. From The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema (2006).

Žižek’s Lacan, Houellebecq’s Lovecraft (Books Acquired, 9.7.2012)

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