What do I think about Zizek?

What is he thinking?

As a learned philosopher with a funny blog, I should have an opinion or two about the Thinking Beast of Ljubljana, the populist, famous, celebrated, roaring, one and only, please welcome Slavoj Zizek (the adornments on the Zs are intentionally left out) who twists psychoanalytical theories together with rabid Marxism and generates a steady stream of anticapitalist thoughts with a dangerously early expiration date. I remember that he once proudly proclaimed that he didn’t watch the movie Avatar, but had seen the poster and read a synopsis or something and considered that enough to burn it to the ground in one of his countercynical reviews. I hereby proudly proclaim that I never went cover-to-cover in any of mr. Zizek’s books (but ind of did get the gist and the jest of that body of his texts). I also grow a beard now.

Some criticize Slavoj because he abuses Lacanian thinking for his own purpose, others think his rhetorical ardor precludes engaging and meaningful discussions of his work. He is turning himself into a caricature faster than anybody would be able to escape such a fixation. But still, what can we distill from his philosophies? We could – and should – have a good laugh with the Elvis of cultural theory, and learn not to take ourselves too seriously. Disappointing? You want to gain wisdom, you want to know the true essence of society, the inner workings of revolutions, crises, and submission to the capitalist beast? I don’t think you’ll find that in Zizek’s philosophies. You can find a lot of controversial material, I mean the man calls himself a “friendly Stalinist” and I overheard him once in Berlin after a lecture where he was basking in self-indulgence, “Oh how smart we are…” – his interlocutor was Peter Sloterdijk and the venue the Rosa Luxemburg theater;- But “real” communists find him dangerous too, because he is to wild to be a dogmatic anything. The 4th International over at WSWS calls him a “charlatan” and “puerile thinker“, and their argument is, as far as I can see, mere non-compliance with Marx and denial of the existence of the working class.

Where he would get interesting for us is the moment he turns his Heraclitian rigor toward the planet. He is worried about ecological disasters like the BP oil spill, and climate change related forced migrations. Yet what I miss is a scientific understanding of the world. That is my main concern with Žižek (here my friend, I gave you back the toboggans on your Zs), when I hear him talk I miss a scientific understanding. I want to hear him explain in some depth the depletion of groundwater levels, the dangers of fracking, the destruction of the Amazon, the melting of glaciers and the pollution of rivers. Why? Because it is a basis we don’t need to fight over. The blind fanatics and their spasm of denial of natural realities will die off quickly after nature makes her cold breath felt.

What we need is a philosophy – and philosophers – with a firm ground in science, not political theory or economy. Perhaps, ideologues and anti-ideologues have in common that scientific (ecological, geological) knowledge doesn’t affect the core of what they want to say. While they diligently absorb ecological disasters into their theories, they are merely there because they illustrate the bankruptcy of the System (our artifact), not because we are a species among other species that are about to fuck up the planet – and ideology is piled up with anti-ideology on the trash pile of petty righteousness called “history”.

Back to nature, less meta-reflection, and better sex.
At this point, I could suggest a counter-philosophy, and engage in some kind of dialogue with monsieur Žižek. But I leave that to the reader as an exercise. Please inflate your own balloons of meaning. What I see as the role of philosophers does have something to do with ideology and dialectics, precisely because these beasts of mass culture are not going do disappear (‘t would be naive to think that). A philosopher knows what she needs to know about metaphysics, and should tirelessly criticize new ideologies, be it ecofascism, post-capitalism or new age collectivism. And precisely because they have a firm base in scientific understanding, they can differ and digress and do that what Nietzsche’s old, halkyonic pharmacy once prescribed: bearing the largest possible contradictions in our chest. I hope this account wasn’t too šcattered, and its intuition more or less clear.