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March 07, 2005

Comments

Jane Dark

If it's any comfort at all, I can tell you that Zizek is not in the new 3rd edition of Critical Theory Since Plato -- he was -- and then stuff had to be culled, and Hazard Adams, on rereading the Zizek piece and feeling just the uncertainty that you described, decided that Zizek would have to go. (Sorry, Mr. Zizek, no offense.)

I think the Tholian Web analogy captures it perfectly, and I shall have to show this to Hazard tomorrow; it'll make him laugh.

Jodi

Actually, Zizek gives a systematic account of problems of liberal democracy in For They Know Not What They Do and Tarrying with the Negative. The problem involves the stain necessary for democracy that renders democracy as an empty place impossible and that is disrupted under capitalism. He also provides a critique of the idea of freedom characteristic of liberal thought in On Belief. The argument involves the way that so-called free choice doesn't determine the actual situation of choice.

Adam Kotsko

John,

On this question, I must defer to Jodi. She has been doing so many blog posts on Zizek and democracy that I would inevitably just end up summarizing what she has put forward. So I recommend going to her blog and clicking the "Zizek" category.

And above all, Enjoy!

peBird

"He apparently thinks no form of political liberalism is interesting enough - either in theory or practice - to merit even a qualified defense. Is he just keeping a straight face to try to get a rise?"

John - start with the fact that quite possibly the height of politcal liberalism (at least in the US) came at the height of the power of the Soviet Union (post WWII - late 40s to 70s). Also that the rise of bringing democracy to the rest of the world, has resulted in the destruction of democracy in the US (terrorism, patriot act, etc.).

Our hint of liberal democracy is a very small part of history - a short interlude - that is rapidly disappearing, but what remains is the "stain" that is used to remind of what once was and to keep us entertained.

nnyhav

Wrong episode. Kobayashi Maru.

Ron Mashate

Strong essay. Ironically, I just yesterday read a piece in the Weekly Standard, via The American Scene, by Neoconservative scion Gertrude Himmelfarb, who's reading on Trilling doesn't jibe with your reading--as if that were a surprise. If you have the time, correct my confusion.

Alain

John

I think you wrote a great essay on Zizek and the defects of his thinking.

But I wanted to take exception with one issue you highlight. Near the end of the piece you point to the following:

"Liberalism’s rationalism tends to corrode that which liberalism exists only to serve: liberty. This is plausibly an ineliminable, systemic defect. And these betrayals may be the more pernicious for being concealed beneath the cloak of good liberal purpose. All this is true but, frankly, not news to liberals."

While it may not be news to Trilling and those of his generation, it seems lost to those who call themselves "liberal" or "potmodern" today. The fact that actual freedom is the freedom to challenge the "co-ordinates" of the current paradigm is not something widely recognized currently.

So if Zizek is good for nothing else, he at least raises the question that you think liberals are already asking. And given the plutocratic theocracy that the United States is quickly becoming, this is a good thing.

Keith M Ellis

I am thrilled with that essay, John. It's great. Thanks.

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