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Zizek - Violence (2008) - Synopsis

Zizek - Violence (2008) - Synopsis

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Published by Mark K. Jensen
Synopsis of Slavoj Zizek, Violence: Six Sideways Reflections (New York: Picador, 2008). -- Discussed at Digging Deeper (www.ufppc.org) on March 14, 2011.
Synopsis of Slavoj Zizek, Violence: Six Sideways Reflections (New York: Picador, 2008). -- Discussed at Digging Deeper (www.ufppc.org) on March 14, 2011.

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Published by: Mark K. Jensen on Mar 14, 2011
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UFPPC ( www.ufppc.org ) Digging Deeper CLII: March 14, 2011, 7:00 p.m. 
Slavoj Zizek,
Violence: Six Sideways Reflections
(New York: Picador, 2008).
It is a mystification to condemnall violence as "bad"; violence is in fact"distributed between acts and theircontexts, between activity and inactivity"(213).]
Introduction: The Tyrant's BloodyRobe.
"Subjective violence" alwaysexists with a backdrop of less obvious"objective violence" (1-2). We shouldrefuse to be stampeded into action bythe fake urgency of "subjective" violence(3-8).
Ch. 1: SOS Violence.
There is"something suspicious" about the focuson "subjective violence" (9-11). Marxgave a "new shape" to "the fundamentalsystemic violence of capitalism" (12-15).Satirical remarks about "liberalcommunists" (Bill Gates, George Soros,etc.) (15-24). Illustrations from film (25-29). In the
atonal world
described byAlain Badiou, sex has replaced love (30-36). "[L]iberal communists are theenemy of every progressive struggletoday" (37).
Ch. 2: Fear They Neighbor asThyself!
"Today's predominant mode of politics is
post-political bio-politics,
"which mobilizes people with fear (40).Fear of the other, even in an age of supposed tolerance, is facilitated byinvoking "
the right not to be harassed
"(41). This makes it possible for thosecalling for respect for the Other to justifytorture (42-46). The stories of theseothers are occulted because there is a"fear of the over-proximity of the Otheras subject of desire" (58; 46-58, withreference to Lacan). Language enhancesthe human capacity for violence because"[i]t dismembers a thing, destroying itsorganic unity" (61; 58-73).
Ch. 3: "A Blood-Dimmed Tide IsLoosed."
The French suburban riots of 2005 were a "zero-level protest, a violentoutburst which wanted nothing," a
expression whose purpose was to "checkwhether the channel was working" (81;79; 74-84). "Science and religion havechanged places: today, science providesthe security religion once guaranteed. Ina curious inversion, religion is one of thepossible places from which one candeploy critical doubts about today'ssociety" (82). Deep down, today's"fundamentalists" don't really believe;their rage is really fueled by envy (82-92). Reporting on Katrina illustrated"what one can call
lying in the guise of truth
: even if what I am saying isfactually true, the motives that make mesay it are false" (100; 92-104).
Ch. 4: Antinomies of TolerantReason.
Reflections on religiousviolence, with a focus on Israel-Palestine(105-39).
Ch. 5: Tolerance as an IdeologicalCategory.
That intolerance rather thaninjustice is regarded as a source orproblems is due to "the failure of directpolitical solutions such as the WelfareState or various socialist projects" (140).Culture is the source of barbarism (141).Particularity and universality exist in adialectical relation denied by Kantianethics (141-58). It is a dirty secret thatour identity formation is often based ondistinctions imposed and enforced byviolence (158-77).
Ch. 6: Divine Violence.
"'Divineviolence' stands for . . . brutal intrusionsof justice beyond law" (178). People areafraid of losing "their transcendent God"(185; 179-85). German philosopher PeterSloterdijk wants intellectuals to give upresentment (185-96). Walter Benjamin
posited as necessary a "domain of puredivine violence which is the domain of sovereignty . . . Divine violence is anexpression of pure drive, of theundeadness, the excess of life, whichstrikes at 'bare life' regulated by law"(198; 196-205). "[Y]ou need to
love withhatred
" (204).
Epilogue: Adagio.
"The circle of ourinvestigation is thus closed: we havetravelled from the rejection of false anti-violence to the endorsement of emancipatory violence" (206). "[T]ochastise violence outright, to condemn itas 'bad,' is an ideological operation parexcellence, a mystification whichcollaborates in rendering invisible thefundamental forms of social violence"(206). It is "difficult to be really violent"(207; 207-13). "[V]iolence is not a directproperty of some acts, but is distributedbetween acts and their contexts,between activity and inactivity" (213;213-17). "Sometimes doing nothing isthe most violent thing to do" (217 [finalsentence]).
16 pp.
22 pp.
About the Author.
Slavoj Žižek 
teaches at the Univ. of Ljubljana,Slovenia, and is the author of more thanthirty books.[
Additional information.
Slavoj Zizek 
or, as it his name is properly spelled,
was born on Mar. 21, 1949 inLjubljana, Slovenia, into middle-classfamily. He holds a Ph.D. from the Univ.of Ljubljana and studied psychoanalysisat the Univ. of Paris VIII. He hasestablished himself as a leading anti-postmodernist continental philosopherand his work has already spawned an
International Journal of Žižek Studies
. Heis a continental philosopher interested inHegelian and Marxist political theory,Lacanian psychoanalysis, and filmtheory, and writes on broad philosophicaland contemporary themes from theseperspectives. Of these influences, Lacanis of greatest importance to Zizek. Hewas a member of the Communist Party of Slovenia until 1988, when he resigned aspart of a mass protest of intellectualsagainst a political trial of intellectualdissidents; he joined the campaign fordemocracy that led to the founding of anindependent Slovenia. His first bookpublished in English was
The SublimeObject of Ideology 
(1989). CritiquingZizek has become a cottage industry inacademia. Critics often complain abouthis intellectual volatility, for he changeshis position frequently, but Zizek says hisis role is to challenge ideologicalpresuppositions, not to explain the world.Known for his oratory, he speaksSlovene, Serbo-Croatian, English, French,and German fluently. Zizek has beenmarried twice. He is the subject of the2005 documentary "Žižek!" (2005).][
The clownish Zizek is a veryself-indulgent philosopher, presenting hismental coruscations as though they werearguments. But they rarely are. Zizek isalways telling us what we "need to askourselves" or what something "brings tomind." He offhandedly peppers hisconversational prose with notions fromcontinental philosophers (Lacan, Hegel,Badiou, Freud, Marx, Derrida, etc.)supposedly "knew well," but which henever really tries to elucidate, usually inthe context of some discussion of currentevents or popular media (especially film).Zizek is attracted to the hyperbolic(he repeats the phrase "the burning Parissuburbs" [75, 76] but no suburbs burned,only some cars and a few buildings;Muslims don't use toilet paper because of "the Muslim belief in the sacred status of writing" [106]). He does not quoteaccurately: Augustine did not say "LoveGod and do as you please" but rather"Love and do as you please" (136). Occasionally Zizek expresses what seemto be brilliant insights, like the notion

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