WTF was Zizek (and Verso) thinking?: Part [too many to keep track]
I haven’t read that much of Zizek, the so-called most dangerous philosopher in the West, but what I have read doesn’t seem to live up to the hype. That said, I feel like I’ll eventually need to deal with him if only because he’s too visible not to take to account.
He has a new book out, published back in May. (And another out yesterday, it seems. He’s like the late-capitalism philosopher, keeping the wheels of would-be-edgy-leftist consumerism turning.) I haven’t read it yet, but according to the publishers it his “pinnacle publication.” I guess it’s about Hegel’s legacy in philosophical and social thought and apparently argues that we need to return to Hegel, become him, and push him even further.
Okay. That’s fine. It’s what philosophers do.
But what the hell does this cover have to do with anything?
Bear in mind, this is the man who says that tulips make him think of vagina dentata and that children should be forbidden from interacting with flowers because flowers’ sexy bits are exposed.
So his attitudes towards sex seem a bit … off. But this cover? Is he seriously trying to lure people into reading a 1000 page analysis of Hegel by having an anonymous naked women bend over for us?!
Apparently the book is split into four parts, with “The Drink Before” and “The Cigarette After” bookending one part on Hegel and another on Lacan, so he quite clearly evokes sex. Presumably they have a rollicking three-way in the most sex-discomforting way possible.
Is this cover meant to evoke Deleuze’s statement
“I would imagine myself approaching the author from behind, and making him a child, who would indeed be his and would, nevertheless, be monstrous”?
If so, why isn’t that Hegel’s pimply rump beckoning us hither? Or a two-headed Hegel-Lacan? Or Hegel and Lacan in passionate embrace, inviting us to join the fun? All these would make sense to me. This? Not so much.
And don’t even get me started on that red line…
Seriously. Can someone explain this to me?
Zizek himself explains it on page 53 (of my pdf copy):
“This, perhaps, is how one can imagine the zero-level of creation: a red
dividing line cuts through the thick darkness of the void, and on this line, a
fuzzy something appears, the object-cause of desire—perhaps, for some, a
woman’s naked body (as on the cover of this book). Does this image not
supply the minimal coordinates of the subject-object axis, the truly primordial
axis of evil: the red line which cuts through the darkness is the subject, and
the body its object?”
The red line (I’m not sure if I’m getting this right… I haven’t actually finished the book yet) is supposed to represent the subject which, far from being an additional positively given entity with it’s own discrete existence, actually marks the site of a short circuit (a point of ontological non-closure) within reality (I’m not happy with this use of ‘reality’… not sure what Z would say). Elsewhere Z says that the subject is self-referential… nothing other than its own self-positing. The woman on the cover is supposed to represent the ‘object petit a’, as Zizek says, the object cause of desire…
I’m guessing this limited explanation won’t be particularly satisfying without the rest of the argument but you’d have to do a lot of reading to get a handle on that. I’ve read a fair amount of Zizek and still struggle to fully understand his reading of Hegel. I would also say that with Zizek one needs to be careful not to read too much into some of his more provocative statements (the vagina denta thing you mention, for instance), often these soundbites come across as quite crazy unless one has a proper grounding in his theoretical approach. Nevertheless, most of his works are far more readable than those of his heros (Hegel, Lacan, Shelling, etc.).
So I just ran across Zizek courtesy of a “Poseur Alert” posting over at Andrew Sullivan’s The Dish…. he was ranting barely coherently about how Psy’s “Gangnam Style” was some sort of apotheosis of the decadence of pop culture (and the capitalism it springs from, of course), a deification of consumerism and… I dunno. He does tend to ramble rather badly. Oh, and apparently “Gangnam Style” is so bad that it supplants even the horror of Justin Bieber…. (Post is at http://andrewsullivan.thedailybeast.com/2012/12/hathos-alert-1.html)
I can actually see how one can use Gangnam Style as an entry point into leftist criticism of pop capitalism, but Justin Bieber? Whatever his artistic merits (or lack thereof), I can’t imagine how one can see Bieber as being somehow a portent of any great leap in pop culture’s debasement of humanity – at least not any more than Katy Perry or Lady Gaga or Kanye West or… (the list is likely endless, that’s just some of the current crop).
Zizek strikes me as the sort of way-too-full-of-himself intellectual who has somehow gotten to the point where what he says isn’t actually relevant, he can just rant and ramble about whatever he wants and his followers (and they do seem to be just that) will just nod and mutter about how brilliant he is being. But hey, what do I know, I’m just a former Marxist wannabe who’s been seduced by bourgoisie philosophy of science… 😛