Slavoj Žižek :: Live stream :: 28 Jun 2017

Slavoj Žižek: Allegation in favor of a bureaucratic socialism

(Youtube Live stream scheduled for 28 Jun 2017)

The day after winning the referendum against EU pressure and saying no to austerity policies, the Syriza government completely collapsed under pressure from the EU; This investment represents the definitive "infinite judgment" (the coincidence of opposites) of left-wing politics in power: there is no gradual mediation between the two extremes, no smooth slippage into any agreement, but a direct and brutal inversion. We must accept this paradox in its highest purity, without lowering it by reference to particular circumstances (the loss of contact with grassroots social movements). It is too easy to reproduce the old opposition between presence and representation, between grassroots social movements and their representation / alienation in party mechanisms and state apparatuses, with the consequent mantra that the left in power should keep alive its roots at all costs Popular. This conceals the real problem: how to transform the mechanisms of the State, how to make them work in another way, instead of being satisfied with supplementing them with popular pressure from outside.

When one hears the idea of ​​local communities working in a transparent way, without "alienated" mechanisms of representation, with all their members actively involved in the organization of their lives, we should remember that their survival depends on a dense web of institutional mechanisms " Alienated ": where do water and electricity come from? Who guarantees law enforcement? Who do we turn to for health care? And so on. The more self-regulated the community, the more fluent and invisible the network has to function. The struggles for emancipation may have to shift from aim to goal of overcoming alienation to focus on reinforcing the right form of alienation: how to achieve a fluid functioning of 'alienated' (invisible) social mechanisms that allow the emergence of ' Non-alienated '.

We have an old name for these alienated mechanisms: bureaucracy, that is why the left today needs to reinvent bureaucratic socialism. The typical characterization of Stalinist regimes as "bureaucratic socialism" is completely confused and (self) mystifying: it is the way in which the Stalinist regime itself perceives its problem, the cause of its failures and its difficulties; The simplest thing is to impute to the bureaucracy an indifferent and petty attitude. "Bureaucratism" was only an effect of the functioning of Stalinist regimes, and the paradox is that it is the inadequate name par excellence: what Stalinist regimes would have really lacked would have been an efficient "bureaucracy" (an administrative apparatus Alienated, depoliticized and competent).

Slavoj Žižek responds to a joint invitation from the Círculo de Bellas Artes and the Reina Sofía Museum, where he will give another conference whose theme will be contemporary fascism. The intervention of Žižek in the CBA will serve as a framework to present one of the great projects for the coming season: a reflection from multiple approaches on the revolution, the resistance, the rebellion and the conflict. To interrelate revolutions throughout the history, to look for the motivations that end in forms of resistance and its consequences and to unravel past and present rebelliousness are some of its objectives.

The core of this proposal will be an audiovisual project that aims to encourage critical reflection on the mechanisms and structures involved in the different forms of rebellion, resistance and revolution.

Reading Žižek – Where to Start?

Slavoj Žižek: Recent European movements are working to get rid of the left – Corbyn should beware their underhanded tactics

Slavoj Zizek, June 27, 2017

Recall how, in the last elections in France, every leftist scepticism about Macron was immediately denounced as a support for Marine le Pen. And look at the empty universality of successful statements like Macron's 'La Republique En Marche!' – the designation of a victorious movement forward without any obvious or specific goal

An old Chinese curse is “May you live in interesting times!” – interesting times are the times of troubles, confusion and suffering. And it seems that in some “democratic” countries, we are lately witnessing a weird phenomenon which proves that we live in interesting times: a candidate emerges and wins elections as it were from nowhere, in a moment of confusion building a movement around his name – both Berlusconi and Macron exploded like this.

What is this process a sign of? Definitely not of any kind of direct popular engagement beyond party politics – on the contrary, we should never forget that such figures explode with the full support of social and economic establishment. Their function is to obfuscate actual social antagonisms – people are magically united against some demonised “fascist” threat.

Decades ago, Vaclav Havel was the first to blurt out this dream: when, after being elected a President, he first met Helmut Kohl, he made a weird suggestion: “Why don’t we work together to dissolve all political parties? Why don’t we set up just one big party, the Party of Europe?” One can imagine Kohl’s sceptical smile.

This weird phenomenon is one of the visible effects of the long-term rearrangement of the political space in Europe. Until recently, the political space was dominated by two main parties which addressed the entire electoral body, a right-of-centre party (Christian Democrat, liberal-conservative, people’s something-or-other) and a left-of-centre party (socialist, social democratic something-or-other), with smaller parties addressing a narrow electorate (ecologists, neo-fascists, and so on).

Now, there is progressively emerging one party which stands for global capitalism as such, usually with relative tolerance towards abortion, gay rights, religious and ethnic minorities; opposing this party is a stronger and stronger anti-immigrant populist party which, on its fringes, is accompanied by directly xenophobic groups.

The exemplary case is here Poland: after the disappearance of the ex-communists, the main parties are the “anti-ideological” centrist liberal party of the ex-prime minister Donald Tusk and the conservative Christian party of Kaczynski brothers. The question now is: which of the two main parties, conservatives or liberals, will succeed in presenting itself as embodying the post-ideological non-politics against the other party dismissed as "still caught in old ideological spectres"? In the early Nineties, conservatives were better at it; later, it was liberal leftists who seemed to be gaining the upper hand.

This process brings us back to Berlusconi and Macron: new movements emerge out of nowhere when none of the old big parties, conservative or liberal, succeeds in imposing itself as the agent of the new “radical centre”, so the establishment is caught in a panic and has to invent a new movement in order, precisely, to keep things the way they are.

Already the names of their respective movements (more than just parties) sound similar in their empty universality which fits everyone and everything. Who wouldn’t agree with “Forza Italia”! or with “La Republique En Marche!” – they both designate the abstract sense of a victorious movement forward without any specification of the direction of this movement and its goal.

Read the full article here.

See also:

Reading Žižek – Where to Start?

‘True political miracle’: Slavoj Žižek on UK General Election outcome

Žižek on UK General Election outcome:

[June 13th 2017.]

Reading Žižek – Where to Start?

Slavoj Žižek: The secret to Corbyn's success was rejecting PC culture as much as he rejected rabble-rousing populism

The fact that such an approach amounts to no less than a major shift in our political space is a sad sign of the times we live in. But it shows where we can go from here

Jeremy Corbyn refused to get caught in dirty games; instead, he simply addressed the main issues and concerns of ordinary people BBC/PA

The unexpected electoral success of the Labour Party has put to shame the predominant cynical wisdom of the connoisseurs, even those who pretended to sympathise with Corbyn and whose preferred excuse was: “Yes, I would vote for him, but he is unelectable, the people are too manipulated and afraid, the moment is not yet right for such a radical move.”

Recall Tony Blair’s claim that under Corbyn the Labour Party is irredeemably marginalised, no longer a potential party of government. The hypocrisy of such statements is that they mask their own political stance as a resigned insight into the objective state of things.

There are, of course, problems and doubts that persist. One should not only confront the limitations of Corbyn’s programme – does it reach beyond the old welfare state, would the Labour government survive the onslaught of global capital? At a more radical level, one should not be afraid to raise the key question: is electoral victory still the key moment of a radical social change? Do we not witness the growing irrelevance of our electoral processes?

But what matters beyond the actual result is the deeper significance of the (relative) success of the Labour Party. This success amounts to a major ethical and political shift, a strong move against the vulgarisation of our public speech. The problem here is the one that Hegel called Sittlichkeit: mores, the thick background of (unwritten) rules of social life, the thick and impenetrable ethical substance that tells us what we can and what we cannot do.

Read the full article here.

See also:

‘True political miracle’: Slavoj Žižek on UK General Election outcome 


Reading Žižek – Where to Start?

Would it be awkward for me if Lacan were alive today? Definitely!

"Would it be awkward for me if Lacan were alive today? Definitely! Because he was such an opportunist. And he would not have liked my direction. Theoretically, he was completely anti-Hegelian. But I try to prove that, without being aware of it, he was actually a Hegelian.
Let me give you a metaphoric formula. Deleuze says that, in contrast to other interpreters, he anally penetrates the philosopher, because it’s immaculate conception. You produce a monster. I’m trying to do what Deleuze forgot to do – to bugger Hegel, with Lacan so that you get a monstrous Hegel, which is, for me, precisely the underlying radical dimension of subjectivity which then, I think, was missed by Heidegger. But again, the basic idea being this mutual reading, this mutual buggering of this focal point, radical negativity and so on, of German Idealism with the very fundamental (Germans have this nice term, grundeswig) insight of psychoanalysis.

I'm critical of Marx. Ideology is not so-called "superstructure", a shadowy realm and real things are happening elsewhere. For me, the core of Marx's theory of ideology is not to be found in the German Ideology, and those stupid, simplistic, youthful works, which are totally outdated. But in Capital, when Marx speaks about commodity fetishism, he speaks about fetishism as some kind of ideology, even if he doesn't use the term ideology. Here Marx outgrew his early simplicities, the distinction between the economic base and the ideological superstructure. This is the lesson of this crisis. Even intelligent neo-conservatives recognise that we are in deadlock and there is no way out. Someone like Fukuyama asks to what extent the functioning of the economy rests on people's ideological attitudes - whether they trust each other, what they think and so on. One big false rumour can practically ruin a small country today. So, I'm not saying that everything dissolves into psychology or whatever. No, the trick is precisely to see what extent the economy itself, in order to function, has to rely on the fact of ideological attitudes. And this is what fascinates me."

from Slavoj Zizek: I am not the world’s hippest philosopher!

Reading Žižek – Where to Start?

Slavoj Žižek along with Julian Assange will Talk at Meltdown Festival hosted by M.I.A. on June 11th

M.I.A. will host a talk with Assange (who will appear remotely over a live link), along with philosophers Slavoj Žižek and Srećko Horvat.

The discussion, titled “What’s Coming Next,” will “cover the complexities of global activism and art in a changing world,” according to a rep for the festival’s venue. The talk will go down from 10:30-11:45 a.m. on June 11 at the Weston Roof Pavilion of the Royal Festival Hall in the Southbank Centre.


Slavoj Zizek: Love beyond Law

The Lacanian Subject not only provides an excellent introduction into the fundamental coordinates of Jacques Lacan's conceptual network; it also proposes original solutions to (or at least clarifications of) some of the crucial dilemmas left open by Lacan's work. The principal two among them are the notion of "love beyond Law" mentioned by Lacan in the very last page of his Seminar XI, 1 and the no less enigmatic thesis of the late Lacan according to which, at the end of psychoanalytic treatment, the subject becomes its own cause. Since these two points run against the predominant doxa on Lacan (love as a narcissistic misrecognition which obscures the truth of desire; the irreducibly decentred status of the subject), it is well worth the while to elaborate them.

"Love beyond Law" involves a "feminine" sublimation of drives into love. As Bruce Fink emphasizes again and again, love is here no longer merely a narcissistic (mis)recognition to be opposed to desire as the subject's 'truth' but a unique case of direct asexual sublimation (integration into the order of the signifier) of drives, of their jouissance, in the guise of the asexual Thing (music, religion, etc.) experienced in the ecstatic surrender. 2 What one should bear in mind apropos of this love beyond Law, this direct asexual sublimation of drive, is that it is inherently nonsensical, beyond meaning: meaning can only take place within the (symbolic) Law; the moment we trespass the domain of Law, meaning changes into enjoy-meant, jouis-sense.3

Insofar as, according to Lacan, at the conclusion of psychoanalytic treatment, the subject assumes the drive beyond fantasy and beyond (the Law of) desire, this problematic also compels us to confront the question of the conclusion of treatment in all its urgency. If we discard the discredited standard formulas ("reintegration into the symbolic space", etc.), only two options remain open: desire or drive. That is to say, either we conceive the conclusion of treatment as the assertion of the subject's radical openness to the enigma of the Other's desire no longer veiled by fantasmatic formations, or we risk the step beyond desire itself and adopt the position of the saint who is no longer bothered by the Other's desire as its decentred cause. In the case of the saint, the subject, in an unheard-of way, "causes itself", becomes its own cause. Its cause is no longer decentred, i.e., the enigma of the Other's desire no longer has any hold over it. How are we to understand this strange reversal on which Fink is quite justified to insist? In principle, things are clear enough: by way of positing itself as its own cause, the subject fully assumes the fact that the object-cause of its desire is not a cause that precedes its effects but is retroactively posited by the network of its effects: an event is never simply in itself traumatic, it only becomes a trauma retroactively, by being 'secreted' from the subject's symbolic space as its inassimilable point of reference. In this precise sense, the subject "causes itself" by way of retroactively positing that X which acts as the object-cause of its desire. This loop is constitutive of the subject. That is, an entity that does not 'cause itself' is precisely not a subject but an object. 4 However, one should avoid conceiving this assumption as a kind of symbolic integration of the decentred Real, whereby the subject 'symbolizes', assumes as an act of its free choice, the imposed trauma of the contingent encounter with the Real. One should always bear in mind that the status of the subject as such is hysterical: the subject 'is' only insofar as it confronts the enigma of Che vuoi? - "What do you want?" - insofar as the Other's desire remains impenetrable, insofar as the subject doesn't know what kind of object it is for the Other. Suspending this decentring of the cause is thus strictly equivalent to what Lacan called "subjective destitution", the de- hystericization by means of which the subject loses its status as subject.

The most elementary matrix of fantasy, of its temporal loop, is that of the "impossible" gaze by means of which the subject is present at the act of his/her own conception. What is at stake in it is the enigma of the Other's desire: by means of the fantasy-formation, the subject provides an answer to the question, 'What am I for my parents, for their desire?' and thus endeavours to arrive at the 'deeper meaning' of his or her existence, to discern the Fate involved in it. The reassuring lesson of fantasy is that "I was brought about with a special purpose".5 Consequently, when, at the end of psychoanalytic treatment, I "traverse my fundamental fantasy", the point of it is not that, instead of being bothered by the enigma of the Other's desire, of what I am for the others, I "subjectivize" my fate in the sense of its symbolization, of recognizing myself in a symbolic network or narrative for which I am fully responsible, but rather that I fully assume the uttermost contingency of my being. The subject becomes 'cause of itself' in the sense of no longer looking for a guarantee of his or her existence in another's desire.

Another way to put it is to say that the "subjective destitution" changes the register from desire to drive. Desire is historical and subjectivized, always and by definition unsatisfied, metonymical, shifting from one object to another, since I do not actually desire what I want. What I actually desire is to sustain desire itself, to postpone the dreaded moment of its satisfaction. Drive, on the other hand, involves a kind of inert satisfaction which always finds its way. Drive is non-subjectivized ("acephalic"); perhaps its paradigmatic expressions are the repulsive private rituals (sniffing one's own sweat, sticking one's finger into one's nose, etc.) that bring us intense satisfaction without our being aware of it-or, insofar as we are aware of it, without our being able to do anything to prevent it.

In Andersen's fairy tale The Red Shoes, an impoverished young woman puts on a pair of magical shoes and almost dies when her feet won't stop dancing. She is only saved when an executioner cuts off her feet with his axe. Her still-shod feet dance on, whereas she is given wooden feet and finds peace in religion. These shoes stand for drive at its purest: an 'undead' partial object that functions as a kind of impersonal willing: 'it wants', it persists in its repetitive movement (of dancing), it follows its path and exacts its satisfaction at any price, irrespective of the subject's well-being. This drive is that which is 'in the subject more than herself': although the subject cannot ever 'subjectivize' it, assume it as 'her own' by way of saying 'It is I who want to do this!' it nonetheless operates in her very kernel. 6 As Fink's book reminds us, Lacan's wager is that it is possible to sublimate this dull satisfaction. This is what, ultimately, art and religion are about.

This paper was first published in the Journal for the Psychoanalysis of Culture and Society 1 (1996), 160-61, as a review of Bruce Fink's The Lacanian Subject: Between Language and Jouissance (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995).


1 See Jacques Lacan, The Seminar of Jacques Lacan XI: The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis, 1964, ed. Jacques-Alain Miller, trans. Alan Sheridan (New York: W.W. Norton, 1977), 263-76.

2 See Jacques Lacan, The Seminar of Jacques Lacan XX: On Feminine Sexuality, the Limits of Love and Knowledge, 1972-73 (Encore), ed. Jacques-Alain Miller, trans. Bruce Fink (New York: W.W. Norton, 1998), 64-89.

3 It is at this point that Peter Dews' attempt to enlist the Lacanian problematic of 'love beyond Law' into his project of the 'return to meaning' (see his The Limits of Disenchantment, London and New York: Verso, 1996) falls short: it has to overlook the radical incompatibility of 'love beyond Law' and the field of meaning - i.e., the fact that within the Lacanian conceptual edifice, 'love beyond Law' entails the eclipse of meaning in jouis-sense.

4 As to this paradoxical status of trauma, see Slavoj Zizek, Metastases of Enjoyment: Six Essays on Woman and Causality (London and New York: Verso, 1994), 29-53.

5 We can see, now, in what precise sense a pervert lives his fantasy: in clear contrast to the hysteric (neurotic), the pervert doesn't have any doubt as to what he is for the big Other's desire: he is the instrument of the Other's enjoyment. A simple, but nonetheless poignant, expression of this perverse attitude is found in Hugh Hudson's Chariots of Fire, when the devout Eric Liddel explains his fast running which brought him a gold medal at the 1924 Paris Olympics: "God made me for a purpose, but He also made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure."

6 One should mention here Michael Powell's The Red Shoes, a suicidal variation of the same motif. At the end of the film, the shoes the young ballerina is wearing also take on a life of their own. However, since there is no one there to cut her legs off the shoes carry the ballerina out onto a high balcony from which she is forced to leap onto the railroad tracks where she is hit by a train. The crucial thing this cinematic version adds to Andersen's fairy tale is the opposition between the 'partial drive' embodied in the shoes and the normal sexual desire, i.e., the girl's sexual interest in her partner.

Reading Žižek – Where to Start?

Slavoj Žižek: What is freedom today?

Are we free to live our lives as we want? We might think so, but philosopher Slavoj Žižek argues that this apparent freedom is actually governed by a complex series of conditions.

For Žižek, a 'pathetic, old romantic', the highest form of freedom is in fact love

Reading Žižek – Where to Start?

Slavoj Žižek: Why Be Happy When You Could Be Interesting?

We don't really want what we think we desire, says philosopher Slavoj Žižek.

“Happiness was never important. The problem is that we don't know what we really want. What makes us happy is not to get what we want. But to dream about it. Happiness is for opportunists. So I think that the only life of deep satisfaction is a life of eternal struggle, especially struggle with oneself. If you want to remain happy, just remain stupid. Authentic masters are never happy; happiness is a category of slaves.”

Slavoj Žižek: Don't Act. Just Think. 

Reading Žižek – Where to Start?

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