Wednesday, 14 December 2011


I thought that it might be a good idea to get a debate going about the overall philosophical/intellectual significance of the ideas of the media-savvy Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek.

I have been spurred on to do this because some academics whose opinion I respect have told me in conversation that they think Zizek is essentially an opportunist and a charlatan who when you examine his texts in a serious and sober way has very little to say.

I wonder what people's opinion might be regarding this claim? I am minded to disagree, but I am not sure why exactly. On relfection, although I really enjoy reading Zizek I am not sure that I have grasped anything that can be termed a coherent intellectual position. There is clearly an anti-postmodern commitment to universalism in his work - but this is pretty thin beer and nothing that we could term 'distinctive'. There is of course also the Lacanian stuff about enjoyment and the contemporary super-egoic compulsion to enjoy - but again this doesn't really provide the basis for a substantial philosophical position. Perhaps this isn't the point. Perhaps Zizek is really like a modernist artwork, designed to shock (and in this way he is perhaps close to Nietzsche).

Maybe someone could enlighten me and spell out exactly, in nuce, what Zizek's intellectual position might be?

Neil T

1 comment:

  1. I am not sure I feel able, at this stage in the year, to outline Z's precise intellectual position, but for what it's worth, I suspect that a lot of the buzz (and controversy) around his ideas are not only around his self-presentational media style, personal eccentricities etc, but more importantly, perhaps, his methodology.

    Ruth G.

    What I mean by that is his collapsing of high/popular cultural distinctions via his promiscuous deployment of texts and cultural forms, hardly a big innovation at this postmodernist stage, I know, but nonetheless a distinctive, and frequently thought-provoking, certainly enjoyable, characteristic of his work.

    In this way, coupled with his sometimes controversial psycho-analytic approach, Z. goes some way towards rendering philosophical ideas relevant for our media savvy times, getting people 'turned on' to critical ways of thinking about politics and culture, and to seeing a public (ok, 'celebrity') philosopher who is very much 'out there'.

    Even if this were all he achieves (and, for me, that would be to take a very reductive view of his work), this is an achievement nonetheless.

    We need more philosophers in the public arena, and I think we should give Z the credit for being 'out there' having the courage of his convictions.

    Even if those convictions might not, in the final analysis, amount to much.