Trump Against the Machine: How Political Elites Failed

[Transcript below video.] Slavoj Žižek: I know that even in the United States when you have someone like Donald Trump, I know that there is a lot of elitist liberal reaction. Like here we see the limit of democracy but in the wrong sense, in the sense that you see stupid ordinary people are seduced and so on and so on. Well, although Noam Chomsky doesn’t like me very much, I admire him sincerely and[ …]

An impotent passage à I’acte

Following 11 September, rightist commentators like George Will immediately proclaimed the end of America’s ‘holiday from history’ – the impact of reality shattering the isolated tower of liberal tolerance and the cultural studies focus on textuality. Now, we are forced to strike back, to deal with real enemies in the real world … But whom to strike? Whatever the response, it will never hit the correct target, bringing us full satisfaction. The ridiculousness of America[ …]

We need to talk about Turkey

There is something weird about the solemn declarations that we are at war against the Islamic State – all the world’s superpowers against a religious gang controlling a small patch of mostly desert land… This doesn’t mean that we should not focus on destroying Isis, unconditionally, with no “but…”. The only “but” is that we should REALLY focus on destroying it, and for this much more is needed than the pathetic declarations and appeals to[ …]

Stalin: Paradoxes of Power, with Stephen Kotkin

Books by Kotkin STEPHEN KOTKIN: I think there are a lot of people out there, but I can’t see anyone. Which is fortunate. I get stage fright. I have to thank Jean Strouse again for the year at the Cullman Center. There are many pages of this book that would not be in there had it not been for the New York Public Library’s collection, and I am very grateful. In fact, we were just[ …]

Stalin: Paradoxes of Power, with Stephen Kotkin (podcast)

[Video version available here.] http://media.nypl.org/audio/LIVE_2015-3-31_Kotkin_and_Zizek.mp3 Books by Kotkin STEPHEN KOTKIN: I think there are a lot of people out there, but I can’t see anyone. Which is fortunate. I get stage fright. I have to thank Jean Strouse again for the year at the Cullman Center. There are many pages of this book that would not be in there had it not been for the New York Public Library’s collection, and I am very grateful.[ …]

How the United States Rolls

Towards the end of September, after declaring war on ISIS, President Obama gave an interview to “60 Minutes” in which he tried to explain the rules of U.S. engagement: “When trouble comes up anywhere in the world, they don’t call Beijing, they don’t call Moscow. They call us. … That’s always the case. America leads. We are the indispensable nation.” This also holds for environmental and humanitarian disasters: “When there’s a typhoon in the Philippines,[ …]

A Soft Focus on War

When Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker won all the big Oscars over James Cameron’s Avatar, the victory was perceived as a good sign of the state of things in Hollywood: A modest production meant for independent festivals clearly overran a superproduction whose technical brilliance cannot cover up the flat simplicity of its story. Did this mean that Hollywood is not just a blockbuster machine, but still knows how to appreciate marginal creative efforts? Maybe–but that’s a[ …]

Green Berets with a Human Face

The victory at the Oscars of Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker over James Cameron’s Avatar was generally perceived as a good sign of the state of things in Hollywood: a low-budget, independent film overcomes a superproduction whose technical brilliance cannot cover up the flat simplicity of its story. So Hollywood is not just a blockbuster machine, but still knows how to appreciate marginal creative efforts. Well, maybe. But it’s also the case that, with all its mystifications,[ …]

Iraq’s False Promises

If you want to understand why the Bush administration invaded Iraq, read Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams, not the National Security Strategy of the United States. Only the twisted logic of dreams can explain why the United States thinks that the aggressive pursuit of contradictory goals — promoting democracy, affirming U.S. hegemony, and ensuring stable energy supplies — will produce success. To illustrate the weird logic of dreams, Sigmund Freud used to evoke a story about[ …]

Notes on a Poetic‐Military Complex

[Abstract:] The predominance of religiously (or ethnically) justified violence can be accounted for by the very fact that we live in an era that perceives itself as post‐ideological. Since great public causes can no longer be used to incite mass violence, that is, since our hegemonic ideology calls on us to enjoy life and to realise our Selves, it is difficult for the majority to overcome their revulsion at torturing and killing another human being.[ …]