In a post last week, I quoted Johann Hari on the myriad problems with Slavoj Žižek. Not surprisingly, fans of Žižek were quick to write to me about why Hari is wrong. The blogger at Interruptions, in fact, pointed me to an interesting piece by Graham Harman that serves as a response to Hari on the seriousness or intellectual weight of Žižek. Harman writes:
I agree with virtually none of Žižek’s politics or ontology, but I don’t see how you can read his books and not find him to be an intensely serious, well-read, and highly cultured person of immense intellectual gifts, one we are lucky to have in our midst. Enjoy him while you have him. We’re not going to have a philosopher this provocatively entertaining for centuries to come. (Giordano Bruno, who was burned at the stake in 1600, was probably the last.)
But most of all, the gift that Žižek has given us is the sense that it’s time to take clear, blunt positions on issues, after a two-decade interlude in which prose was always supposed to meander and hedge its bets and regard puns as if they were philosophical arguments. That was the 1980′s and much of the 1990′s, and Žižek was one of those who dealt that style a death-blow.
Let’s begin with some throat-clearing: I’ve read Žižek; I’ve taught whole courses on Marxism in the past and these courses have included works by Lenin; I continue to teach Marx regularly in several courses; I even teach a bit of Lacan in a course. I don’t see anything wrong with exposing people to their ideas, some of which I think ought to be taken quite seriously.
But now let’s get to the heart of the matter, to my critique of Žižek.
The sum total of Harman’s defense of Žižek is that he is a serious thinker and an interesting one. I don’t entirely disagree, though I think he’s more interesting as a philosopher than he is serious. But I see nothing in Harman’s defense that blunts the central criticism of Hari’s piece, namely that the things about which Žižek is serious and interesting are abhorrent. Hari is mistaken in claiming that Žižek is an incoherent or ridiculous figure; he is not. This is what Harman reacts against in his rebuttal of Hari, but it isn’t the part of Hari’s piece that interested me; what interested me was the critique of Žižek’s embracing of neo-Leninism as a political philosophy, seemingly without making a serious effort to connect the dots between what he admires in Leninism and what everyone abhors in Stalinism. On this point, Žižek’s problematic political philosophy, Harman doesn’t defend Žižek; instead, he affirms Hari’s argument.
This pretty neatly sums up some of my major problems with Zizek, other than the fact that he’s a dirty money grubbing hypocrite.Source: kohenari