« Preoccupied | Main | Problems with drive »

January 24, 2009


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

the vanishing mediator

From http://vanishingmediator.blogspot.com/

Žižek against both post-politics and biopolitics

(1) From Žižek’s book Virtue and Terror: Maximilien Robespierre (Verso, 2007), p. xxxix:

“[...] what better proof of the ethico-political misery of our epoch whose ultimate mobilizing motif is the mistrust of virtue! Should we not affirm against such opportunist realism the simple faith in the eternal Idea of freedom which persists through all defeats, without which, as was clear to Robespierre, a revolution ‘is just a noisy crime that destroys another crime’, the faith most poignantly expressed in Robespierre’s very last speech on the 8 Thermidor 1794, the day before his arrest and execution:

But there do exist, I can assure you, souls that are feeling and pure; it exists, that tender, imperious and irresistible passion, the torment and delight of magnanimous hearts; that deep horror of tyranny, that compassionate zeal for the oppressed, that sacred love for the homeland, that even more sublime and holy love for humanity, without which a great revolution is just a noisy crime that destroys another crime; it does exist, that generous ambition to establish here on earth the world’s first Republic.”

(2) From Žižek’s book Violence (Picador, 2008), p. 40:

“[...] ‘post-political’ is a politics which claims to leave behind old ideological struggles and instead focus on expert management and administration, while ‘biopolitics’ designates the regulation of the security and welfare of human lives as its primary goal.”

(3) From Žižek’s book Violence (Picador, 2008), p. 202:

“Divine violence should thus be conceived as divine in the precise sense of the old Latin motto vox populi, vox dei: not in the perverse sense of ‘we are doing it as mere instruments of the People’s Will,’ but as the heroic assumption of the solitude of sovereign decision. It is a decision (to kill, to risk or lose one’s life) made in absolute solitude, with no cover in the big Other. If it is extra-moral, it is not ‘immoral,’ it does not give the agent license just to kill with some kind of angelic innocence. When those outside the structured social field strike ‘blindly,’ demanding and enacting immediate justice/revenge, this is divine violence.”

(4) From Žižek’s book In Defense of Lost Causes (Verso, 2008), pp. 460-461:

“But then how are we to counter the threat of ecological catastrophe? It is here that we should return to the four moments of what Badiou calls the ‘eternal Idea’ of revolutionary-egalitarian Justice. What is demanded is:

1. strict egalitarian justice (all people should pay the same price in eventual renunciations [...]);

2. terror (ruthless punishment of all who violate the imposed protective measures, inclusive of severe limitations on liberal ‘freedoms,’ [...]);

3. voluntarism (the only way to confront the threat of ecological catastrophe is by means of large-scale collective decisions which run counter to the ‘spontaneous’ immanent logical of capitalist development);

4. and, last but not least, all this combined with trust in the people [...] One should not be afraid to assert, as a combination of terror and trust in the people, the reactivation of one of the figures of all egalitarian-revolutionary terrors, the ‘informer’ who denounces the culprit to the authorities. (In the case of the Enron scandal, Time magazine rightly celebrated the insiders who tipped off the financial authorities as true public heroes.)

Does, then, the ecological challenge not offer a unique chance to reinvent the ‘eternal Idea’ of egalitarian terror?

(5) From Žižek’s book In Defense of Lost Causes (Verso, 2008), p. 212:

“Gastev ran the Institute of Labor, which carried out experiments to train workers to act like machines. He saw the mechanization of man as the next step in evolution [...]. Is not this dream the first radical formulation of what, today, one usually calls biopolitics? Counterintuitive as this may sound, one can argue that this vision, had it really been imposed, would have been much more terrifying than Stalinism actually was. It was against this threat of full-scale modernist mechanization that Stalinist cultural politics reacted; it not only demanded a return to artistic forms that would be attractive to large crowds, but also—although it may appear cynical—the return to elementary traditional forms of morality. In the Stalinist show trials, the victims were held responsible for certain acts, forced to confess...in short, though it may obscene (and it was), they were treated as autonomous ethical subjects, not as objects of biopolitics.”

(6) From Žižek’s book In Defense of Lost Causes (Verso, 2008), p. 358:

“What is not in Marx, what Negri projects onto Marx’s ‘general intellect,’ is his own central notion of ‘biopolitics’ as the direct production of life itself in its social dimension. [...] This is why, in this Marxian vision, the objects of the production process are precisely not social relations themselves: the ‘administration of things’ (control of and domination over nature) is here separated from the relations between people, it constitutes a domain of the ‘administration of things’ which no longer has to rely on the domination over people.”

I think one way to summarize the insight that unifies all of these quotations from Žižek is to say that Capital today functions as the Real which informs--but is not visible from within--the imaginary-symbolic “reality” addressed by both post-politics and biopolitics. When those who are excluded from, and made abject by, this hegemonic “reality” wrest control away from the capitalists in an ethico-political act, this act (as well as the subsequent institutions that prevent the resurgence of capitalism) is neither post-politics nor biopolitics. Only such an act realizes what Žižek has recently referred to in his lectures as a “politics between fear and trembling.”


Enjoyed this Jodi. Think you get at it best where you are suggesting he seems to be merely conflating post politics with biopolitics. I'm still needing to catch up on the last few biopolitics posts.


Hi Old--thanks; my basic thought is that if these are the 'same' then that needs to be explained, particularly since the concepts refer to different things; also, there is a post called Schmitt (or something with Schmitt in the title) that is really about society must be defended; I wrote it with your remarks in mind (although I expect that there are places where you will disagree!)


I'll be sure to have a look at it soon!

The comments to this entry are closed.

My Photo