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August 10, 2008


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Joe Clement

"What is the trait you most deplore in others?

Their sleazy readiness to offer me help when I don't need or want it."

Reminds me of something from Thus Spake Zarathustra, in the section on "The Friend," where Nietzsche says a friend knows or tries to know when one does not want or need compassion.

patrick j. mullins

"What is your guiltiest pleasure?

Watching embarrassingly pathetic movies such as The Sound Of Music."

He really is a masochist, telling the truth about something that shameful. 'The Sound of Music', one of the most commercially successful movies of all time, is indeed embarassingly pathetic, but it is not for some of us pleasurable on even the most sin-worshipful level.

"What would be your fancy dress costume of choice?

A mask of myself on my face, so people would think I am not myself but someone pretending to be me."

More Julie Andrews, 'Victor Victoria' this time. Julie Andrews is a Rubicon that should not be crossed, and most have done it.

"How do you relax?

Listening again and again to Wagner."

If he weren't so enamoured of Julie Andrews, I'd say he thought of relaxation as a mental erection, because that is the kind of pleasant sensation of verticalism you get from listening to Wagner over and over.

patrick j. mullins

This little interview must be a preparation for Barbara Walters, it's just sooooo Ladies' Home Journal, or even old Hedda Hopper columns.

"Which living person do you most admire, and why?

Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the twice-deposed president of Haiti. He is a model of what can be done for the people even in a desperate situation."

Overture to Arpege Chabert, who may also prefer Aristide to the great Chavez, if possible.

"Tell us a secret.

Communism will win."

He is so fucking gross...

patrick j. mullins

"Tell us a secret.

Communism will win."

He is so fucking gross.

This was an unfair response, I think the kind they call 'knee-jerk'.

It should read:

"Tell us a secret.

Communism will win."

It will if Julie Andrews has anything to do with it (which is why she should be sent to Gulag while there's still time.)


Has Zizek explicitly thematized or analyzed stupidity at any point? What does he mean by stupid? It isn't entirely clear about it, but he makes repeated mention of it - in relation to the average person in everyday life, in relation to the student, that life itself is stupid, and so on. (Admittedly, I don't follow his work very closely - apologies if this is a recurring theme.)

Also, how open is the Foundations section to non-political scientists? The intellectual culture among social theorists is not always the most vibrant. This year's Foundations program looks far more interesting than most of what appears at sociology conferences. I work far more closely with political theory texts than most social theorists as I'm working on the separation of the social from the political and then the separation of the economic from the social.


Craig--I'm glad you think the foundations program looks interesting; I put it together (it's the largest APSA section). Anyway, I've not been at a meeting where name tags were checked to enter sessions. Tags are always checked at the book exhibit. Sometimes there are checks at convention entry points; this seems a matter of 'security' and not of the APSA. Non-members can of course register on site for the meeting; but the fee is likely 100+ dollars (not much, now, for Canadians and their big, strong, currency).

On stupidity--not related to Zizek, but Dany Nobus has a book with the title of something like, Knowing Nothing, Being Stupid, that considers stupidity in psychoanalysis. Zizek often uses stupidity in connection with the idiocy of jouissance, which seems to imply a stuckness or immersion. I've sometimes wondered if the opposite (for Zizek)is good old fashion Englightenment reason (so, stupidity is non-reflection), with the added dimension of the inevitability of the mutual imbrication/determination of stupidity/reflexivity.


Zizek's answers here seem insincere, like lies well-chosen to accord with a certain theory, or a certain image he wants us to have of him. Except for his comment on students. This seems utterly true. In a Lingua Franca interview (a long time ago) he also said that he hated students and teaching. He offers all students an 'A' so that they wouldn't submit and he wouldn't have to grade their work.

He enjoys the image of being scandalous, contrary.

At a talk he gave (10 years ago?) he pushed the idea that the teacher who was jailed for seducing her 14 year-old (?) student (they later married) were true rebels, that they exemplified a political model. The audience was stunned and asked him no questions. Everything was "No, the complete opposite."

Clearly his notoriety has to do with his role as a gadfly. I'm just not sure that I can trust any of his work. I haven't looked at *Zizek's Politics* yet, but I wonder if some of these exoteric considerations are taken up.

patrick j. mullins

"or a certain image he wants us to have of him. "

Of course that, at very least.

"Except for his comment on "

No, that's true, the 'disarming remark' meant to charm students while having also meant it literally.

Can this possibly be the Zizek National Anthem?

"Ain't nothin' gonna breaka my stride
Nobody gonna slow me down, oh no
I got to keep on moving
Ain't nothin' gonna break my stride
I'm running and I won't touch ground
Oh no, I got to keep on moving"

He's good on saying 'I love you', though, but the 'mutual masturbation with a partner' is just malodorous, and proves him to have lost all his sexiness (the modern sense of 'sexiness', that is, which is sensational copy.)

patrick j. mullins

No, that's true

should be 'No, that's part of the image being cultivated too....etc.'

Mehmet Çagatay

I think Zizek’s frequent reference of stupidity is parallel with Lacan who occasionally talks about idiots, idiotism, simpletons and even the natural stupidity of the subject. As I understand, and which makes me an idiot, stupidity in Lacan is related with contingency and superficiality, it is the natural symptom of human being repeatedly surfaces through situations: “I love idiotic questions - I also love idiots (idiotes). I also love idiots (idiots), it is not - privilege of the sex. In a word what I call idiotic, is something that, in this case, is quite simply natural and proper. An idiotism is something that is confused too quickly with singularity, it is something natural, simple, and in a word, very often linked to the situation. The person in question, for example, had not opened my book. She posed me the following question: "What is the link between your Ecrits?” (Lacan, Seminar 14). But, it is not the qualities such as contingency, shallowness, etc. what discloses the idiotism (or “donkism” in poker terminology) of the subject but it is the very ignorance on the existence of these qualities. Or as Lacan pointed out, it is the exact situation where the subject claims self-assurance: “Whatever announces itself as I am the one who am is totally problematic, not sustained, and almost unsustainable, or only sustainable by an idiot… We are no longer in a position to reply to him who says, I am the one who am. What are we to be able to reply to the one who am? We know only too well. A birdbrain - in fact we get lots of flights of these birdbrains coming in from the other side of the Atlandc - whom I met recently remarked to me -But still, all the same, I am me! To him that seemed to be the ultimate certainty.” (Lacan, Seminar 3). Therefore, I think, when Zizek declares the stupidity of life, students, etc. first of all, he indicates this position of illusory self certainty. This life is stupid as long as it acts as if it is completely consistent and meaningful, that student is an idiot since he undoubtedly understands the subject and this poker player is a donk as he confidently continues to raise an obvious split pot with a high only hand while I have a locked low and freerolling to complete a flush on the river, etc. etc. And there is a specific stupidity in psychiatry that Lacan explained; it is about the language of psychiatry, the language of simpletons and idiots: “What we are supposed to have learned once again, as is thought everywhere in medical quarters, the expression of psychiatrists' sensus commune, is to understand patients. This is a pure mirage… The notion of understanding has a very clear meaning. It's a source that, under the name of relation of understanding, Jaspers has made the pivot of all so-called general psychopathology. It consists in thinking that some things are self-evident, that, for example, when someone is sad it's because he doesn't have what his heart desires. Nothing could be more false—there are people who have all their heart desires and are still sad. Sadness is a passion of quite another color” (Lacan, Seminar 3).

There is another aspect of stupidity that Zizek called attention to by stating that seeing stupid people happy makes him depressed. But this is an inadequate statement due to the limitation of the particular fashion of the conversation. The proper answer may be “I am depressed by seeing stupidity” since the enjoyment of certainty is the essential position of stupidity: “As is habitual in the concrete development of things, the one who has triumphed and conquered the enjoyment becomes a complete idiot, incapable of doing anything other than enjoying, while he who has been deprived of it keeps his humanity intact.”

patrick j. mullins

"But this is an inadequate statement due to the limitation of the particular fashion of the conversation."

Ooooohhh RAELLY??? It's this limitation of the particular fashion of the conversation that should have been resisted if he wasn't to seem an idiotism in the terms most of us don't need to look in Lacan to find. It is interesting that you would try to 'repair' a situation of pure ego-grazing and give it intellectual status, since it is so clearly a preparation for The Barbara Walters Special. This sort doesn't tend to come off as well as she does on that show, but they never say no, since it appears they're going to be flattered.

“As is habitual in the concrete development of things, the one who has triumphed and conquered the enjoyment becomes a complete idiot, incapable of doing anything other than enjoying, while he who has been deprived of it keeps his humanity intact.”

You didn't say who said this, but it certainly does constitute an 'idiotism', nice word, but Lacan hasn't proved it. It's according to the context, and so if somebody didn't open his book, and sounded self-assured while ignorant, she had done nothing that wouldn't that he wouldn't have been privy to in a different kind of club. It is truly amazing to read such things as how 'deprivation of enjoyment keeps humanity intact.'

The usual rot and hypocrisy, keeping it black-and-white.


Mehmet--thanks for your comment. As usual, I learn a great deal from your reading of Lacan. It made me think of something from Zizek, I can't remember where it is now, where he describes seeing a movie and sitting near and next to a complete idiot. My recollection of the context was that the idiot's response triggered one level of Zizek's discussion of the film. It's as if the first response or maybe the response of enjoyment is idiotic. Also, Mladen Dolar once told me that the highest compliment Zizek pays someone is to say that he or she is not a complete idiot. At any rate, it seems, though idiocy is unavoidable (as enjoyment or maybe we could say the idiocy of drive). One last thing, you refer to the enjoyment of certainty as the essential position of stupidity. I wonder about that insofar as psychosis is rooted in certainty and the 'normal' person accepts a fairly high degree of certainty (a point Lacan raises in the seminar on psychoses, what is that, seminar III?). I would say that stupidity and psychosis are different and have different relations to certainty. In fact, I now wonder if maybe they are opposites, but I can be convinced that I'm wrong about this.

Mehmet Çagatay

Hello Mr. Mullins,

I had no intention to offend anyone, the purpose of my comment is to give a moderate answer to Craig’s question that what might Zizek has in mind when he talks about stupidity. Nowadays I read Lacan, Badiou, Althusser and Zizek by and large, the latest is practically helpful to clarify obscure Lacanian concepts, and thus I thought that I could trace Zizek’s reference of stupidity in Lacan. It was not an act of intellectual polishing to excuse Zizek’s scandalous statements as such, which also doesn’t require justification since I love scandals; they always reveal a disturbing truth beneath the secure consistency in the symbolic order. As regards to Zizek’s own stupidity, of course, in a certain situation Zizek is an idiot in front of the screen ecstatically watching The Sound Of Music (There is a Turkish version of the wonderful song “Do Re Mi” which is usually taught in music classes). And I am keen on to regularly talk about myself as an idiot, but it is not a narcissistic scheme to underline my intelligence as, I am very smart to the extend that it enables me to tell of my idiocy, rather, I know that at the moment I overlook my natural potential to thrust myself into stupid situations (I usually find myself in stupid situations but this is not the point), I will be confined to the perpetual state of stupidity.

I was intending to write more about Zizek’s interview, especially on Zizek’s paradoxical answer to the question of saying I love you without meaning it but I am undaunted by the further possibility of annoying people here.


Mehmet--I hope you meant 'undaunted' so that you will write more. Frankly, Patrick's remark to you was the one that was annoying--and your response was more gracious than he deserved.

Mehmet Çagatay

Ms. Dean, with regard to the state of certainty, although in psychosis the subject fills the original hole (which is as a result of the emergence of language) in the symbolic reality with psychotic fantasies, I think stupidity of a psychotic does not reside in the fact that the subject replaces the symbolic reality with his psychic reality but in the very ignorance of the contradictory nature of his fantasies. This is why, as Lacan elaborated, Schreber who had a delusion about an erotic relationship with God, is not a stupid person since his affiliation, argumentation with God compromises a problematic conversation which would be regarded as a proper theological discussion.

Sorry, I meant daunted but the misspelling, the slip of the tongue, etc. has spoken itself. It is really funny. So I will continue to write on your blog.

Meanwhile, it is irrelevant with the subject but I just realized that your link to the Larval Subjects blog is out of date. I found their new blog here:




Mehmet, I don't think I made my point clearly in my previous response. My interest here is in certainty insofar as you said that the enjoyment of certainty is the essence of stupidity. I want to claim that the enjoyment of certainty is the essence of psychosis. I agree that this is not stupid. And then I would say that the enjoyment of certainty is not the essence of stupidity (not sufficient for stupidity).

patrick j. mullins

This is why, as Lacan elaborated, Schreber who had a delusion about an erotic relationship with God, is not a stupid person since his affiliation, argumentation with God compromises a problematic conversation which would be regarded as a proper theological discussion.

It is nothing of that sort with this flatulence about the 'theological discussion.' Schreber just had no self-confidence, otherwise he could have easily had a conversation with God, it's just he had to be the TOP. I swear people stopped believing in God because they feared him when he wanted to be submissive.

Mehmet Çagatay

Ms. Dean, sorry that I didn’t understand your argument properly, there was a movie on television (Four Rooms) and I hastily wrote my response during the ad break. By enjoyment, I was referring to the straightforward definition of the word, the state of standard satisfaction. But if we are talking about jouissance, as an eager amateur on the subject, I have figured out that its particular modes of operation is not just essential in psychotic structure but also in other forms of clinical structures. While, the pervert offers his/her body as an object to ensure the satisfaction of the jouissance of the Other, or as Zizek puts, “the pervert works precisely to ensure that the big Other's "will to enjoyment" will be satisfied”, the psychotic effectively materializes the jouissance of the Other through his/her own body, the jouissance of the Other invades the body of psychotic. So in this sense, I think you hit the nail on the head by claiming that “enjoyment” or more accurately surplus enjoyment is the essence of psychosis.

Although it was an excessive expression, or may be completely incorrect, what in my mind when I claimed that enjoyment is the essential condition of stupidity were a numerous figures from the screen, John Goodman in The Big Lebowski, Inspector Clousseau, Paul Eddington in Yes, Prime Minister, Kelly Bundy, Peter Griffin, Homer Simpson, George Bush as himself since the act of “I am the one who I am” is so convincingly performed only by an idiot. I thought all these characters disturbingly share a common trait of enjoyment through their perception of symbolic reality. And when those images overlapped with Zizek’s and Lacan’s statements on the “idiotic enjoyment”, I joyfully decided to take a step further and assert “certainly” that enjoyment is the very essence of stupidity.


how is Zizek giving a speech on Aug 29? Isn't he guest directing the Telluride Film Festival at that time (Aug 29-Sep 1)?


He gives the speech and then leaves for Colorado--he'll get there the night of August 29.


stu·pid·i·ty - noun, plural

Any movie starring Will Farrell or Adam Sandler.


Oh my... these responses are really great, intelligent and funny at the same time. Usually interviews are boring. But he knows how to do it!

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