Outside of a few random articles, I haven’t read Zizek in several years, so I missed when it was that he finally rounded the bend.
Lacan.com has posted a series of his articles on the rioting in New Orleans and France. What’s clear from them–besides the fact that he’s now in the business of regurgitatiang his past concoctions–is that he’s closed whatever ironic distance he had from Lenin. Actually, it might be worse than that.
From “Violence, Irrational and Rational”:
…[W]hat strikes the eye with regard to [comparing the recent riots with] May 68 is the total absence of any positive utopian prospect among the protesters: if May 68 was a revolt with a utopian vision, the recent revolt was just an outburst with no pretense to any kind of positive vision–if the commonplace that “we live in a post-ideological era” has any sense, it is here. Is this sad fact that the opposition to the system cannot articulate itself in the guise of a realistic alternative, or at least a meaningful utopian project, but only as a meaningless outburst, not the strongest indictment of our predicament? Where is here the celebrated freedom of choice, when the only choice is the one between playing by the rules and (self-)destructive violence….
The tongue-clucking call for better consciousness. The finger-wagging accusation of incorrect action. So what should the vision be and where should it come from? Don’t ask Zizek; he’s just a philosopher, and the “philosopher’s task is not to propose solutions, but to reformulate the problem itself, to shift the ideological framework within which we hitherto perceived the problem.” Refusing to issue a program is all well and good, but criticizing the rioters for their lack of solutions is, well, hypocritical. It seems for Zizek, then, that the philosopher’s job is to pillory political actors and, in the process, affirm the (Leninist ) difference between the philosopher and the masses, between intellectual work and “prole” labor (or nonlabor).
But if we want to reformulate the problem, to enact an ideological shift, where do we turn for assistance? Why, to Hollywood, of course: Zizek spends the rest the rest of the essay dissecting violence in The Fugitive, Taxi Driver, Mystic River, and Lone Star.
But first, a formulation for his analysis, and another broadside against the rioters:
The first step in the analysis is to confront each of these modes with its counter-violence: the counter-pole to “terrorist” attacks is the US military neo-colonial world-policing; the counter-pole to Rightist Populist violence is the Welfare State control and regulation; the counter-pole to the juvenile outbursts is the anonymous violence of the capitalist system. In all three cases, violence and counter-violence are caught in a deadly vicious cycle, each generating the very opposite it tries to combat. Furthermore, what all three modes share, in spite of their fundamental differences, is the logic of a blind passage à l’acte: in all three cases, violence is an implicit admission of impotence.
And the summary:
And, perhaps, this is all we can do today, in our dark era: to render visible the failure of all attempts at redemption, the obscene travesty of every gesture of reconciling us with the violence we are forced to commit.
Violence, violence, everywhere. Even without questioning the dubious declaration that burning cars and looting stores constitutes violence (and it certainly is of a much different magnitude than the violence in the Hollywood films), it’s hard to escape the conclusion that Zizek is more horrified by the violence, which is directed against the welfare state, than frustrated by the lack of consciousness or political direction. In this way, his revulsion is identical to the welfare state’s, and the latter’s call for more “control and regulation” finds its mirror in Zizek’s call for a Leninist higher consciousness and utopian project.