I suppose Hegel and Lacan are to Slavoj Zizek what Kant and Zizek are to me.
I don’t necessarily mean to discuss these thinkers in every post but, in my mind at least, all roads lead to one of these two guys despite knowing that that’s not entirely original thinking on my part.
Now I have a confession to make, and I know that I’m not alone in this, but I don’t entirely understand Zizek (or Kant, for that matter). If you’ve ever read anything from him or listened to one of his lectures, he jumps from one subject to another in schizophrenic fashion which can be off putting if unprepared. Zizek comes from a, for a lack of a better description, ‘Hegelian’ method of practicing philosophy where one tackles a subject in a nebulous way.
This method (for me, at least) requires me to be constantly engaged in critical thought, which may or may not be Zizek’s intention, but I have found to be hugely beneficial. Normal objects in everyday life suddenly become reevaluated. For others, however, they simply tune him out for simply being another psychopath on the internet.
To explain this phenomenon, one doesn’t have to look any further than the opening scene in Pervert’s Guide to Ideology. When discussing the film They Live, a character violently rejects wearing a pair of sunglasses that allows him to see the world as it actually is. Zizek’s interpretation of that scene is that we are comforted by the illusions of our ideology and we violently reject any nonconforming views (indeed, this is the mechanism behind the Western rejection of Marxism). That perfectly sums up recent retaliation against Zizek from both the Left and Right.
The recent popularity of Jordan Peterson revived my fascination of Zizek (which honestly, it’s not hard to do) and apparently the Internet was with me on that with rumors of a “debate” being planned between the two. There’s honestly nothing special about Peterson: he’s essentially espousing the same bullshit talking points of the alt-Right (but he claims to be a “classic liberal”) only he has academic credentials. He’s hardly a guy worth responding to (even though I did), nevertheless some on the Left felt the need to have a liberal warrior champion their beliefs and Zizek felt like a natural fit.
Except on further investigation, he didn’t quite live up to expectation. Zizek is a committed Marxist, not a neoliberal. While I admitted that I didn’t completely understand Zizek’s philosophy, one thing is clear: his thought is designed to shape human understanding to fit within a Marxist framework. Zizek rejects many of the movements that have propelled the modern Left, particularly in the US (and where many of my disagreements with him lie).
This has lead to a near total rejection of him and his philosophy on the Left. Even Noam Chomsky (whose criticisms might’ve come BEFORE the Peterson ordeal, I’m not sure) seems to have abandoned his earlier thoughts that made him famous in order to criticize Zizek. But what these criticisms boil down to a complete misunderstanding of Zizek’s philosophy.
Truthfully, there’s just too much to digest. His rapid fire and ‘nebulous’ presentation of thought means that Zizek probably won’t be understood completely in this generation. I don’t agree with all of his political views (I think the ‘American Experience’ is completely foreign to him, hence the source of our disagreements), but the wholesale rejection of his philosophy due to presentation is a testament to the validity of Zizekian thought because we are still bound in an ideological world.
Reality behind the veil is too terrifying to face.