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May 05, 2008


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I think the main fear is that Zizek's loquacity covers up that he 'really' has nothing to say (obversely, being brief and gnomic, which was Lacan's style, makes people say the same thing). I think also there is a kind of fear that Zizek's textual diarrhea is part of a conscious effort to be a pop-media spectacle, to make himself into a commodity, and ultimately to make a lot of money. Another thing is that it makes Zizek's thought seem inconsistent in its quality--he seems to work through questions by publishing, rather than incubating his thoughts and publishing the results (like, say, Philip Glass); this is our problem rather than Zizek's though, and speaks to our desire for Zizek to be some sort of Master Thinker in the old Modernist style with a singular Style or Voice and unified Theory. It can be treacherous to follow Zizek: I'm halfway through "In Defense of Lost Causes" now, and I feel like I've read 70% of it before (mostly at all the notes he publishes for free at Lacan.com), and yet IDFC is worth it because Zizek seems of have integrated his thought better and is able to give much more concise, accessible summations of his main ideas about politics. If Parallax was Zizek's big synthesis of his method (dialectic as parallax), then this is definitely his clearest statement of his politics.


That's right Jodianne - tell the ungrateful bastards! Just because dr. Zizek suffers from monomania doesn't mean that he's not allowed to masturbate! This complaint must be coming from closet Republicans, which means 90% of the Marxist blawgosphere...


The university discourse, true to form, after that troublesome excess again. How difficult it must be to enjoy the old dismissive mastery. No wonder there's calls for the 'right measure', whatever that is; perhaps it should be written into an academic's contract (no more, no less than...)!

The thing is, Zizek's revelations about his own analysis - that he bombarded JAM with interpretations in order to avoid 'going to the end', fearing that his motivation to theorise may be put in jeopardy - can only encourage the 'symtomatic reading', however peurile it really is.


I am not an academic but I have to agree with ph ("the main fear is that Zizek's loquacity covers up that he 'really' has nothing to say"). But beyond that, there is the often observed issue that he repeats himself in several books, lifting entire passages word for word. Whether a useful didactic tool, or just part of his process, it comes across to someone like me as laziness.

And I think ph is right - if you read what he publishes for free at Lacan.com or at the new online journal (the Heidegger essay I believe is also published in the Lost Causes book) you have the feeling that he is just repeating himself. But again, ph is write that this is the reader's issue and not the fault of the author - it is to Zizek's credit that publishes large amounts of work for free.


And in response to your question as to whether publishing too much is a pathology - I think sometimes it is a disease and other times it is a desire to make a great deal of money or achieve a certain status (this seems clearly the case with Derrida, who I still admire intellectually.) I believe it was Heidegger who said that every great thinker has one great thought - if one agrees with this then clearly it there is a certain point at which written output produces diminishing returns.

no matter

i once heard laurence rickels say that he loves teaching at art schools because the idea that one can produce too much just doesn t come up there. in fact, the opposite is the case: people are chided all the time for not working hard enough, for not producing enough, for not clocking enough studio hours, for not advancing. of course, one of the pedagogical myths in art school is that one has get past a certain number of works--as a kind of exorcizing of internalized conventions--before intersting (one's own?) objects start emerging. the frenzy to produce, according to rickels, is infectious.

patrick j. mullins

"he seems to work through questions by publishing, rather than incubating his thoughts and publishing the results (like, say, Philip Glass); "

How extraordinary, I never realized that that does describe Glass's music perfectly; I had never known what Adele Marcus meant when she was redressing one of her students for an overly-prepared Juilliard jury performance, saying 'You can't put fire into an egg that's already been cooked.' Good for the old sadistic bag---I've always been annoyed at that remark until now, and now I know why Glass's music all sounds like Swanson TV dinners while posturing as critique of 'modern depersonalization'. I mean--one should see Jerome Robbins's 'Glass Pieces' with dancers walking past each other as at rush hour in the subway--so TRUE about modern horror! so ALIENATED! so fucking ugly and so ultimately nothing but fashion-oriented SHIT! I hate everything I have ever heard by Philip Glass.

Zizek doesn't write too much, but rather it isn't perhaps always good enough. I therefore haven't read enough of it to know if it is too much, but if what Alain says is true about the literal self-plagiarism, then that could be overdone.

"Are all bloggers suffering from pathology?"

Yes, of course they are, but that doesn't mean they're a bad person. Of course, however, most of them are somehow defective...

"What about Stephen King? Did Derrida suffer from the same malady? "

This was a brilliant juxtaposition and well-deserved by Derrida, since I can do without all Stephen King, hated aesthete and hideous elitist snob that I am. But, amazingly, I read Derrida like a novel, and I think the Wicked Arpege used to say she did the same thing, but is now engrossed in proving the essential inferiority of Derrida to Marx. COMPELLING!

"people who don't publish enough, who are worried that they might look bad, like they are lazy, like they should be doing more. "

Of course, all these apply to me except I think it makes me look good because being happy within my own narcissism, which I must continue cultivating, because I now see that narcissists are quite as capable of love as anyone else, and Norman Mailer says they are especially good at loving each other. This here adage is the secret of Future Happiness! Anyway, I publish as fast as I can, and don't care if I do it more slowly than other people say. Frankly, I wish I had a cynical flair for merchansising in different media like Zizek might, because I think Money is just adorable!


Maybe the real question-- pardon the pun --isn't whether or not Zizek's writing is symptomatic (clearly it is), but why symptomaticity is treated as a perjorative. As Lacan says, there is no subject without a symptom. It's not as if the aim of analysis is the disappearance of the symptom (though hopefully it takes different, less painful, forms).


We've been having a discussion of style over at Larval Subjects. I respond to this post over there. Thanks for the spark of thought during finals week!


It isn't clear to me that Zizek's writing is symptomatic unless all writing is symptomatic (and then all speech? visual art?) and then there isn't anything distinctive about Zizek's symptom. The question remains: at what point does quantity become symptom and who decides? In fact, if the matter is one of a symptom, then writing but 1 book could be as much of a symptom as writing 50.


Part of the ‘cut and paste’ shtick is that the argument in question is slotted into a new place and thereby takes on a different tinge. But in a lot of cases it's like publishing drafts: many of the papers that he puts out (his Heidegger essay on IJZS, for instance) turn into chapters of books, with more ideas worked out, some things removed (but usually more added than not). Another example of that is his paper on "Badiou and post Marxism", which became a very long chapter in _Ticklish Subject_...

In one of his interviews with Daly, Zizek says something to the effect of “A materialist returns to the same examples over and over and gets a new result every time”. This is because there is no “true hidden meaning” behind the text - ‘appearance is essence’, as Zizek often writes (or, at least, titles sections of his papers). Every new reading adds a nuance that wasn’t taken into account before.

In the same set of interviews he says something to the effect that he’s stupid and doesn’t realize the full import of an example until after he’s used it, so he returns to it again and again. A good recent example of this is Brecht’s comment about the Stalinist show trials: In “Lenin’s Choice” he uses it to say that people who sit on the fence are guilty by virtue of being ‘beautiful souls’; in _Defense of Lost Causes_ he adds to this, writing that not only is that true, but they were also guilty of not stopping Stalin.

I think his process is a lot like Lacan’s: each produced a lot of stuff, and neither really write introductions to their work. That is, they just launch right into it - the theory can only come out of the doing, not in pre-planning. Like Z writes in the brief intro to _Parallax…_: He considers his ‘praxis’ to be ‘expanding the concepts’. Like Deleuze said, paraphrasing Godard, "Just have Ideas".

And I think there’s something a little strange about saying that, however. For Lacan, in _The Other Side…_ he talks about the difference between transmissible knowledge and know how - i.e. psychoanalytic theory is all well and fine, but it’s no substitute for practicing analysis. For Zizek the practice (at least according to him) is mixed into the theory. But as he says, it’s not for him to be out there being political, but us. He’s there to repose the questions (as he says in the recenct “democracy now” interview…)

One last note on Practice: I’ve seen videos of Chomsky getting asked by University students, a propos of politics, “What do we do?”. The response to Zizek (from my friends, anyway) seems to be “What does Zizek do”? It seems to me that both of these responses are an instance of transference, one positive, the other negative. I.e. “You know how to help me!” and “How can you help me when you have problems of your own!?” What needs to happen is for people to go out and get their hands dirty…

or just have ideas.


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