Philosopher, Social Critic and Theorist and Psychoanalyst Slavoj Zizek
speaking at The Graduate Center of the City University of NY in Midtown last night
photo by Tony Napoli
Damn, Zizek! It's 9 PM, I haven't eaten today, I never got that pre-lecture Scotch I was thinking about earlier, and the remarkable Hegelian, Marxist, Lacanian circumlocutions of this curious Slovenian philosopher continue to spin out longer than Spiderman's Broadway webs. Even his colleagues who attempt to close the program with a Q & A with the audience are struggling-- once he begins to speak, from a prepared lecture document, it is still clearly impossible to keep SZ on track, with his humor, trenchant observations, and Slovenian lisp and tics and mannerisms. But what a thinker: Are we -- or the vast majority of us, anyway -- part of the proletariat, no matter how we view our status? Is organic food, or Starbucks coffee for that matter, merely a delusion that the developed world indulges in so that one can feel you are actually doing something more politically activist beyond simple capitalist consumption? Do we assume that democratic liberalism is a natural state that all societies will aspire to as part of the process of overturning state apparati about which they are less sanguine?
As one writer has observed "Žižek is a strange hybrid, particularly in American intellectual life: a celebrity-philosopher, a self-described Marxist and communist (with all appropriate qualifications) who ran for president of Slovenia as a liberal democrat, a prolific author of obscure texts, a Lacanian psychoanalyst who ransacks and gropes through everything from popular culture to philosophic esoterica, mapping human perversities and possibilities."
And, "Zizek is very much a thinker for our turbulent, high speed, information-led lives" Sophie Fiennes told The Guardian in a June 27 story about casting Žižek as the star of her 2006 documentary, The Pervert's Guide to Cinema. "Precisely because he insists on the freedom to stop and think hard about who you are as an individual in this fragmented society."
The lecture served to launch The Committee on Globalization and Social Change, an interdisciplinary working group composed of a core group of CUNY faculty interested in reflecting on globalization as an analytic category for understanding social change.
"The Situation Is Catastrophic, but Not Serious" according to Zizek was an alleged message of the Austrian military headquarters during WWI renders perfectly our attitude towards the ongoing crisis: we are aware of the looming (ecological, social) catastrophes, but we somehow don' t take them seriously. What ideology sustains such an attitude?
What is fascinating about Zizek, as he made clear in his lecture, is that he does not present himself as an Absolute Other, who has all of the answers to the meaning of life in these turbulent times, based on an ideology. Instead, using Marxism and psychoanalysis as critical tools, Zizek slips in and out of who he is and what interests him -- high and low art, films, philosophy, psychoanalysis, anthropology, religion, communism and Christianity. And, to this observer, this is all done in the service of continuing to challenge the world and its assumptions and suppositions (and suppositories). While we may never fully understand the world, or wisely manage its resources, or meaningfully improve it, only by continuing to bring a critical mind to the effort, challenging ourselves and the Other as presented by the State, by systems, institutions and private myths of individuals, can we bear to live in it as Human Beings.
Zizek on Catastrophes as Part of Daily Life here