Pseudo-Philosoph Slavoj Žižek

Eine der vielen Gründe, warum ich die New York Review of Books so gerne lese (Notiz) ist deren Resistenz gegenüber Pseudophilosophie: Eine publizistisch inzwischen selten gewordene Tugend! Desto erfreulicher ist John Grays kritischer Artikel The Violent Visions of Slavoj Žižek über das Abstruse im „Denken“ des Slavoj Žižek in der neuen Ausgabe 12/2012:

Along with Badiou, Žižek celebrates Mao’s Cultural Revolution as “the last truly great revolutionary explosion of the twentieth century.” But he also regards the Cultural Revolution as a failure, citing Badiou’s conclusion that “the Cultural Revolution, even in its very impasse, bears witness to the impossibility truly and globally to free politics from the framework of the party-State.”3 Mao in encouraging the Cultural Revolution evidently should have found a way to break the power of the party-state. Again, Žižek praises the Khmer Rouge for attempting a total break with the past. The attempt involved mass killing and torture on a colossal scale; but in his view that is not why it failed: “The Khmer Rouge were, in a way, not radical enough: while they took the abstract negation of the past to the limit, they did not invent any new form of collectivity.” (Here and elsewhere the italics are Žižek’s.) A genuine revolution may be impossible in present circumstances, or any that can be currently imagined. Even so, revolutionary violence should be celebrated as “redemptive,” even “divine.”


There may be some who are tempted to condemn Žižek as a philosopher of irrationalism whose praise of violence is more reminiscent of the far right than the radical left. His writings are often offensive and at times (as when he writes of Hitler being present “in the Jew”) obscene. There is a mocking frivolity in Žižek’s paeans to terror that recalls the Italian Futurist and ultra-nationalist Gabriele D’Annunzio and the Fascist (and later Maoist) fellow traveler Curzio Malaparte more than any thinker in the Marxian tradition. But there is another reading of Žižek, which may be more plausible, in which he is no more an epigone of the right than he is a disciple of Marx or Lenin.

Whether or not Marx’s vision of communism is “the inherent capitalist fantasy,” Žižek’s vision—which apart from rejecting earlier conceptions lacks any definite content—is well adapted to an economy based on the continuous production of novel commodities and experiences, each supposed to be different from any that has gone before. With the prevailing capitalist order aware that it is in trouble but unable to conceive of practicable alternatives, Žižek’s formless radicalism is ideally suited to a culture transfixed by the spectacle of its own fragility. That there should be this isomorphism between Žižek’s thinking and contemporary capitalism is not surprising. After all, it is only an economy of the kind that exists today that could produce a thinker such as Žižek. The role of global public intellectual Žižek performs has emerged along with a media apparatus and a culture of celebrity that are integral to the current model of capitalist expansion.

In a stupendous feat of intellectual overproduction Žižek has created a fantasmatic critique of the present order, a critique that claims to repudiate practically everything that currently exists and in some sense actually does, but that at the same time reproduces the compulsive, purposeless dynamism that he perceives in the operations of capitalism. Achieving a deceptive substance by endlessly reiterating an essentially empty vision, Žižek’s work—nicely illustrating the principles of paraconsistent logic—amounts in the end to less than nothing.

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