The Universal Exception (Preface)

The big Other between violence and civility Slavoj Zizek   The ‘universal exception’, according to Lacan, is the fundamental feature of the symbolic order (the ‘big Other’) as the order of universality: each universality is grounded in its constitutive exception. This feature is to be supplemented with its no less paradoxical obverse, the so-called ‘not-All [pas tout]’: an order (or rather, a field, a signifying space) with no exception that is eo ipso not-all, and[ …]

The ‘fake’ Mandela memorial interpreter said it all

Our daily lives are mostly a mixture of drab routine and unpleasant surprises – however, from time to time, something unexpected happens which makes life worth living. Something of this order occurred at the memorial ceremony for Nelson Mandela last week. Tens of thousands were listening to world leaders making statements. And then …it happened (or, rather, it was going on for some time before we noticed it). Standing alongside world dignitaries including Barack Obama[ …]

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova of Pussy Riot’s prison letters to Slavoj Žižek

Dear Nadezhda, I hope you have been able to organise your life in prison around small rituals that make it tolerable, and that you have time to read. Here are my thoughts on your predicament. John Jay Chapman, an American political essayist, wrote this about radicals in 1900: “They are really always saying the same thing. They don’t change; everybody else changes. They are accused of the most incompatible crimes, of egoism and a mania[ …]

A modest plea for enlightened catastrophism

How, out of the interaction of individuals, can the appearance of an “objective order” arise which cannot be reduced to that interaction, but is experienced by the individuals involved as something which determines their lives? This is the ultimate mystery of the so-called human or social sciences. The great theoretical breakthrough of Jean-Pierre Dupuy’s recent book The Mark of the Sacred is to link this emergence of what Lacan called this “big Other” to the[ …]

Choosing Our Fate

Item number PO 24.1999 in the Museum of Islamic Art is a simple 10th century earthenware circular dish from Nishapur or Samarqand; its diameter 43 cm, decorated with a (Farsi) proverb attributed to Yahya ibn Ziyad, written in black on white slip ground: “Foolish is the person who misses his chance and afterwards reproaches fate.” Such dishes were meant to solicit an appropriate conversation among the learned eaters during and after the meal; an old[ …]

Beyond the occupations

What to do after the occupations of Wall Street and beyond – the protests that started far away, reached the centre and are now, reinforced, rolling back around the world? One of the great dangers the protesters face is that they will fall in love with themselves. In a San Francisco echo of the Wall Street occupation this week, a man addressed the crowd with an invitation to participate as if it was a happening[ …]

Occupy first. Demands come later

What to do after the occupations of Wall Street and beyond – the protests that started far away, reached the centre and are now, reinforced, rolling back around the world? One of the great dangers the protesters face is that they will fall in love with themselves. In a San Francisco echo of the Wall Street occupation this week, a man addressed the crowd with an invitation to participate as if it was a happening[ …]

Slavoj Žižek: Blofeld rides again, Interview with Danny Leigh

Slavoj Žižek is in bed. He’s wearing cheap pyjamas in a porridgy shade of grey. He looks exactly like the photographs I’ve seen of him: fag-ash beard, ghostly complexion. I loom over him, and he glowers back. His face is just inches from mine, so close I can feel his breath. “No, you are wrong!” he hisses. “My dreams were not really mine! That’s why I wanted to be reborn!” None of this is a[ …]

Capital is the Real of our lives

When we were fighting AIDS, hunger, water shortages, global warming, and so on, there always seemed to be time to reflect, to postpone decisions (recall how the main conclusion of the last meeting of world leaders in Bali, hailed as a success, was that they would meet again in two years to continue their talks …). But with the financial meltdown, the urgency to act was unconditional; sums of an unimaginable magnitude had to be found[ …]