Reply to My Critics, Part Two (re: The Sexual is Political)

Reply to My Critics, Part Two (re: The Sexual is Political)

Two general observations about my numerous critics seem pertinent to me. First, the large majority of attacks on my text follow the rules of the tweet culture with short snaps, retorts, sarcastic or outraged remarks, and with no space for the multiple steps of a line of argumentation. One passage (a sentence, or even a part of it) is cut out and reacted to. For example, many critics countered my analysis of the anti-Semitic figure of the Jew as a foreign intruder who disturbs social harmony by accusing me of anti-Semitism and totally ignoring the fact that the claim about “Jews as foreign intruders” is for me the very claim I reject as the exemplary ideological operation of obfuscating social antagonisms. They simply cut those words out of the line of argumentation and used them to attack me… Even the “annotated” reply to my text by Virgil Texas and Felix Biederman is just a collection of tweet snaps, and I have neither the time nor the will to join that game and reply with my own annotations to annotations.

The stance that sustains these tweet rejoinders is a mixture of self-righteous Political Correctness and brutal sarcasm: the moment anything that sounds problematic is perceived, a reply is automatically triggered—usually a PC commonplace. Although critics like to emphasize how they reject normativity (“the imposed heterosexual norm,” etc.), their stance itself is one of ruthless normativity, denouncing every minimal deviation from the PC dogma as “transphobia,” or “Fascism,” or whatever. Such a tweet culture, combining official tolerance and openness with extreme intolerance towards actually different views, simply renders critical thinking impossible. It is a true mirror image of the blind populist rage à la Donald Trump, and it is simultaneously one of the reasons why the Left is so often inefficient in confronting rightwing populism, especially in today’s Europe. If one just mentions that this populism draws a good part of its energy from the popular discontent of the exploited, one is immediately accused of “class essentialism”…

This brings me to the second observation. One of the problems at the center of my preoccupations—the link between the struggle for sexual liberation and what was traditionally designated a “class struggle” in all its diverse dimensions (not just the workers’ struggle but Third World crises, the plight of immigrants and refugees, etc.)—is more or less totally ignored by my opponents. I insist on this topic because one of the greatest tragedies of progressive struggles is, for me, the lack of contact (antagonism even) between the two. Nancy Fraser has shown how the predominant form of feminism in the US was basically co-opted by neoliberal politics. And while the exploding animosity of Third World countries towards gay struggles is widely known, the saddest thing is that they present their rejection of homosexuality as part of their anti-imperialist struggle. So, in the same way that the homophobia and anti-feminism of many Third World movements should make us suspicious about the level of their anti-imperialism, we should also at least wonder about the fact that individuals who personify the cutting edge of global capitalism, like Tim Cook, emphatically support LGBT+ rights. There is certainly nothing a priori bad in this fact, and there is a long history of big corporations acting against apartheid. In the old South Africa, foreign companies with factories based there, such as Mercedes, began paying black workers the same as they paid white ones and thus definitely contributed to the end of apartheid. True, one should listen to stories of how LGBT+ individuals are oppressed, victimized, etc., but one should nonetheless also note that they enjoy the full support of hegemonic political space and big business. This, of course, should not in any way problematize our full support for LGBT+, but it should make us aware of the politico-ideological background for the affair.

The Leftist call for justice tends to be combined with struggles for women’s and gay rights, for multiculturalism and against racism. The strategic aim of the Clinton consensus is clearly to dissociate all these struggles from the Leftist call for justice. The message from this consensus to Leftists is: You can get everything, but we just want to keep the essentials, namely the unencumbered functioning of the global capital. President Obama’s “Yes, we can!” acquires now a new meaning: Yes, we can concede to all your cultural demands… without endangering global market economy, and so there is no need for radical economic measures. Or, as Todd McGowan put it (in a private communication): “The consensus of ‘right-thinking people’ opposed to Trump is frightening. It is as if his excess licenses the real global capitalist consensus to emerge and to congratulate themselves on their openness.” That’s why I think it’s politically crucial to counteract this tendency and to fight for the solidarity of all our struggles. A truly radical gesture would have been, say, to get a Muslim lady, with her hair veiled even, to proclaim herself part of LGBT+. (Incidentally, for those hardline Muslims who insist that women should be covered, the question is how transgender individuals should be dressed since they belong to neither of the two hegemonic genders.)

But are there not exceptions to this tweet culture? Sam Warren Miell‘s reaction to my text1 presents itself as such, challenging me to confront him who criticizes me from the Lacanian standpoint and reproaches me with misreading Lacan or at least with not keeping in touch with the new developments in Lacanian theory that are much more open to the LGBT+ topic and can enable us to grasp it in a new way. So what do we get there, apart from the standard, rather tasteless, puns on my account? Here enters the big surprise: quite a lot of his text sounds familiar, as it recapitulates the analyses by Joan Copjec and others, with which I fully agree. I’ve written literally hundreds of pages on how to read Lacan’s formulas of sexuation, so to preach to me how sexual difference is the point at which logos/reason breaks down sounds weird… Quite a lot, but not all. Referring mostly to the work of Tim Dean (whom I highly appreciate, by the way), he outlines a new approach to Lacan, which, so he claims, indicates that “Lacanian studies have decisively moved beyond Žižek and his generation. How appropriate that, in the field of psychoanalysis, we have killed the Father.”



Slavoj Žižek

Slavoj Žižek is a Slovenian philosopher and psychoanalyst, and a senior researcher at the Institute for Humanities, Birkbeck College, University of London. He has also been a visiting professor at more than 10 universities around the world. Žižek is the author of many books; his latest are Against the Double Blackmail and Disparities. This account is not monitored and is only maintained to give appropriate credit.

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