[From Wayne Schroeder] On the front cover of YODD, Zizek stands disturbed in thought in front of a burning car, set afire by a disaffected youth during the UK riots of August 2011--protests with no program and no message.
What do we make of this seemingly senseless violence? The liberal left sought to explain away this phenomenon as failed social programs that “diminished social mobility, raising economic insecurity.” (p. 58) The conservative right explained it away as a lack of morals and religious belief, the disintegration of paternal authority and the need for better enforced laws.
Which worst interpretation is correct? How do we choose when protestors can cite all the above reasons for why they are protesting while having no agenda other than violence and impotent rage?
Zizek identifies the real beast as the “hegemonic capitalist ideology” (p. 55) which has reduced man to a “natural beast” who has become estranged, disengaged and repressed from his natural drive as the Slave bows to the Master. This is the cause of the UK riots of August 2011 and the seemingly “senseless” violence - this “acquisitive desire violently enacted when unable to realize itself in the ‘proper’ way (by shopping).” (p. 60)
Zizek sees a danger that “religion will come to fill this void and restore meaning . . . Terrorist attacks are carried out on behalf of the absolute Meaning provided by religion.” (p. 60) He identifies the Arab Spring as a possible middle path between self-destructive violence and religious fundamentalism. We'll have to await the second half of the book to see whether he is persuasive in this, along with an interpretation of the meaning of Occupy Wall Street.
This Sunday October 13, Michael Burgess is planning a hangout-chat time on the first half of YODD at 1pm Eastern. (See http://partiallyexaminedlife.com/groups/the-dangerous-dreams-of-slavoj-zizek/forum/topic/meetings for latest info on this) Since that covers only 61 paperback pages it shouldn’t be too hard to get up to speed and weigh in with your interpretation of Zizek’s claims which have been called crazy but I guarantee are not stupid (they fit a well published coherent psycho-philosophy combining Lacan, Hegel, the Puppet and the Dwarf).
As the events of 2013 continue to prove, “Rage is building and a new wave of revolts and disturbances will follow. Why? Because the events of 2011 augur a new political reality. These are limited, distorted—sometimes even perverted— fragments of a utopian future lying dormant in the present.” (back cover)
Peter Burdon says
Thank you for this interesting post – folks might also be interested in this discussion of the text from Diet Soap podcast http://dietsoap.podomatic.com/. I think it highlights some common concerns about Žižek’s use/interpretation of Marx and the value of reading Žižek in the long-form.
Wayne Schroeder says
I’ll have to give this a read, but Zizek seems to have the same beef against Marx as he has against any Big Other–ideological solutions are false ideologies, fantasies in need of the Lacanian cure. (communism didn’t fit his life-style).
Leland Gregory says
|| Zizek identifies the real beast as the “hegemonic capitalist ideology” (p. 55) which has reduced man to a “natural beast” who has become estranged, disengaged and repressed from his natural drive as the Slave bows to the Master.
I find this interpretation only marginally more agreeable than either the “left” or “right” interpretations. Looks like I’ll have to read those 61 pages!
The image of “fragments of a utopian future lying dormant in the present” is why I love Zizek.