The Interpassive Subject

[Delivered at Centre Georges Pampidou, Traverses, 1998. Minor editing, headings, etc.] Fetish Between Structure and Humanism According to the classic Althusserian criticism, the Marxist problematic of commodity fetishism relies on the humanist ideological opposition of “human persons” versus “things.” Is it not one of Marx’s standard determinations of fetishism that it deals with “relations between things (commodities)” instead of direct “relations between people”? In other words, that in the fetishist universe, people (mis)perceive their social relations[ …]

From Joyce-the-Symptom to the Symptom of Power

What does Lacan’s thesis on “Joyce-the-symptom” aim at? Joyce’s famous statement that he wrote Finnegans Wake in order to keep literary historians busy for the next 400 years has to be read against the background of Lacan’s assertion that, within a psychoanalytic cure, a symptom is always addressed at the analyst and as such points forward towards its interpretation. The “modernism” of Joyce resides in the fact that his works, at least Ulysses and Finnegans[ …]

Multiculturalism, or, the Cultural Logic of Multinational Capitalism

[Extract. Appeared in New Left Review I/225, September-October 1997] Those who still remember the good old days of Socialist Realism, are well aware of the key role played by the notion of the ‘typical’: truly progressive literature should depict ‘typical heroes in typical situations.’ Writers who presented a bleak picture of Soviet reality were not simply accused of lying; the accusation was rather that they provided a distorted reflection of social reality by depicting the remainders[ …]

Civil Society, Fanaticism, and Digital Reality: A Conversation with Slavoj Zizek, Interview with Geert Lovink

Geert Lovink: Let’s speak about the role of intellectuals. Before 1989, there was a strange relationship among intellectuals and those in power in Eastern Europe. Both bureaucrats and dissidents had some sort of relationship with politics. Even now, this is partly the case. In Western Europe this phenomenon disappeared and it is hard to see any relationship or even dialogue. What should be the role of intellectuals? Slavoj Zizek: Partially this is true. For me[ …]

Connections of the Freudian Field to Philosophy and Popular Culture

I would like to begin with an almost narcissistic reflection. Why do I resort so often to examples from popular culture? The simple answer is in order to avoid a kind of jargon, and to achieve the greatest possible clarity, not only for my readers but also for myself. That is to say, the idiot for whom I endeavor to formulate a theoretical point as clearly as possible is ultimately myself: I am not patronizing[ …]

Reflections of Media and Politics and Cinema, Interview with Geert Lovink

Geert Lovink: You have been to Japan. What’s your opinion on the technological culture in this country? Slavoj Zizek: First I must say that I don’t have my own positive theory about Japan. What I do have, as every Western intellectual, are the myths of reference. There is the old, right wing image of the Samurai code, fighting to death, the absolute, ethical Japan. Then there is the leftist image, from Eisenschtein already: the semiotic[ …]

Es gibt keinen Staat in Europa (There is no state in Europe)

For many long years in left-wing (and not only left-wing) mythology the State appeared as the original source of Evil, as a living dead sponging off the body of the community. The repressive, particularly ideological machinery of the State was presented as the process of supervising and maintaining discipline, as armour shaping the healthy body of the community. The utopian perspective, which henceforth opened up towards both the radical left-wing as well as the antiliberal[ …]

From Courtly Love to the Crying Game

[Extract. Appeared in New Left Review I/202, November-December 1993] Why speak about courtly love (amour courtois) today, in the age of permissiveness, when sexual encounter is often nothing more than a ‘quickie’ in some dark corner of an office? The impression that courtly love is something out of date, long superseded by modern manners, is a lure which blinds us to the fact that the logic of courtly love still defines the parameters within which the[ …]

The Sublime Theorist Of Slovenia, Interview with Peter Canning

Jacques Lacan is responsible for saying, “there is no sexual relation.” This should not make lovers too upset, for in fact, Love is what we have to make up for the Relation that is missing. Eros would be the potential of supreme Good, for harmony uniting men and women, women and women, men and men. But why did Sigmund Freud have to ruin everything by saying, It is always possible to bond together in love,[ …]

Ethnic Dance Macabre

The world today is more and more marked by the frontier separating its insiders from its outsiders, between the “developed” – those to whom human rights, social security and the like apply – and the others, the excluded. The main concern of the “developed” is to contain the explosive potential of the rest, even if it means the neglect of elementary democratic principles. This opposition, not the one between capitalism and socialism, is what defines[ …]