Home > Cool People, Pinko Commies > Cool People: Slavoj Zizek

Cool People: Slavoj Zizek

Slavoj Zizek is one of these guys that I really want to understand, but can’t. I am not sure if it is because I am not as smart as he is, or if he is full of shit.

He’s kind of an academic rockstar. He dates lingerie models and wears the free socks you get from flying on Lufthansa. He’s also a funny, cynical, old fuck, as is made evident by this interview (When asked, “What makes you depressed?”, Zizek answers: “Seeing stupid people happy.”) He is in high demand as a lecturer. When he speaks English, he has the worst kind of saliva-soaked Central-Eastern European accent, which he employs at a machine gun’s pace to effortlessly jump between his three favorite topics: Communism, Lacan, and Hegel… which wouldn’t be all that hard to follow, except he frequently stops at stations as varied as Kung-Fu Panda, the ecology of “shit”, and his own self-loathing between the terminals of his intellectual heroes.

Despite all of this, I came across this piece that Zizek wrote for Guernica, where I think he is trying to reinvent Communism, and I actually followed along with his prose for about 1000 words before it became obfuscated by Zizek’s… Zizekiness. Also, from the site where I found the article, came this reader comment:

“I’ve read before that Zizek is a pure Hegelian that is just trolling humanity with his silly defenses of communism. Something like the philosophical equivalent of Howard Stern… It’s very rare for me to find a socialist I don’t hate, but in this case I make an exception… because like I said I think he’s just screwing around.”

Interesting hypothesis. As I stated, I am really not sure whether I should take Zizek seriously or not. To me, it seems much of his writings have little appeal outside the circles of pseudo-intellectuals and nihilistic bourgeois continentals who claim Zizek as their own. Other times, I find myself wanting to believe that he is onto something important, but I am just unable to wrap my mind around it completely. In either case,  I am always hesitant to bring him up in serious conversation, because his ideas are polarizing at worst and confoundedly byzantine at best.

From what I have read and seen about the man, I believe him to be earnest in the presentation of his ideas, but skeptical and sarcastic about his audience’s ability to understand them (this is an attitude that I can relate to completely). He is approaching political economy from a psycho-philosophical perspective that doesn’t really mesh with my own model of emergent institutionalism, and it is probably the case that I just “don’t get it” because I haven’t been trained to (despite my love of philosophy, my studies in it have been entirely self-directed and incomprehensive), but in any case I find what Zizek has to say supremely fascinating. He is also an interesting personality. His normally cantankerous prose is punctuated by moments of lucidity: “I don’t see any continuity with old-style communism in my approach. So why do I then call it communism? As to its contents, though, the problem is always the same. It’s the enclosure of the commons. Marx was talking about land and property when he wrote about this, but today intellectual property is our commons, information is our commons. Something that Marx could not have predicted is taking place today: we are witnessing a strange regression to the same kind of enclosure of the commons, andpeople having to pay rent to people like Bill Gates for intellectual property.”

More on Zizek:

2010 Profile from the UK Guardian

2004 Interview w/ Believer Mag

Categories: Cool People, Pinko Commies
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