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Hart, William D., 1957Nepantla: Views from South, Volume 3, Issue 3, 2002, pp. 553-578 (Article)
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Religion and the Bifurcation of the Left
Slavoj Žižek and the Imperial/Colonial Model of Religion
William David Hart
his earliest form of religion— although one may well refuse to call it religion—is that for which we have the name “magic.” (Hegel 1998a, 226) The religion of magic is still found today among wholly crude and barbarous peoples such as the Eskimos. (229) The Negroes have an endless multitude of “divine images” which they make into their gods or their “fetishes.” (234–35) [Africa] is no historical part of the World; it has no movement or development to exhibit. Historical movements in it—that is in its northern part—belong to the Asiatic or European World. (Hegel 1988b, 92) World history goes from East to West: as Asia is the beginning of world history, so Europe is simply its end. In world history there is an absolute East, par excellence (whereas the
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or else generally backward in industry. scholars often employ an evolutionary/hierarchical model. It is here that the external physical sun comes up. These models became evident at least as early as the eighteenth century and reached their zenith in the nineteenth century. shedding a higher brilliance. Why Is the Christian Legacy Worth Fighting For? (2000a) is a legacy of this model of religion. from the religions of Africa. 151) The same consideration justiﬁes civilized nations in regarding and treating as barbarians those who lag behind them in institutions which are the essential moments of the state. and both of these are barbarians from the point of view of agriculturists. I shall argue. (Hegel 1967. and so its necessary means of subsistence. (219) Introduction In their efforts to develop a general theory of religion. they exhibit the following schemata: from simple to complex religion.1 I shall argue that Slavoj Žižek’s recent book The Fragile Absolute. the most systematic version of which is found in the work of Hegel.) This inner dialectic of civil society thus drives it—or at any rate drives a speciﬁc civil society—to push beyond its own limits [colonial expansion] and seek markets. &c. to sink in the West: and for that same reason it is in the West that the inner Sun of self-consciousness rises. that Žižek’s and Hegel’s models share . &c. further. it has a deﬁnite East which is Asia. Almost invariably. The civilized nation is conscious that the rights of barbarians are unequal to its own and treats their autonomy as only a formality. On the contrary. Thus a pastoral people may treat hunters as barbarians. aboriginal Australia. or. (ibid. from primitive to civilized. for although the earth is a sphere. from religions of the East to those of the West. This evolutionary and hierarchical model of religion is more properly called the imperial/colonial model of religion. and native America to the religions of Europe. in other lands which are either deﬁcient in the goods it has overproduced. history makes no circle around that sphere.554 Nepantla geographical term “East” is in itself entirely relative). from religions of the South to those of the North.
geographical. Australia. Imperial/Colonial Model of Religion Eurocentric presuppositions—historical. precisely. and politics. Idolatry (or paganism) referred to non-Abrahamic religion. 99). sociopolitical relations with native peoples in the Americas. the adherents of non-Abrahamic religion were ignorant of father Abraham and certainly ignorant of Jesus the Christ. and the emergence of racial theory. viewing Christianity alternately. and gendered hierarchies—that I have in mind.” The appellation imperial/colonial model of religion is apropos. Africa.555 Hart . and Indian Oceans (the bitter fruit of conquest) that were already beginning to develop. if not simultaneously. Instead. This development was fed by the classiﬁcation of national characters. the transatlantic slave trade. for the proponents of the Abrahamic religions. Islam. The singular religion rather than the plural religions was appropriate since. Thus conquest provides the historical context for the emergence of a theory of religion that models the hierarchical. Žižek holds this common sense constant and beyond question—it does not even reach the threshold of critique—as he queries “our” culture’s common sense on other matters. he stumbles into this model. the similarities were more important than the differences. The imperial/colonial model of religion has antecedents in the medieval notion of the “four faiths”: Christianity. What he holds constant. I put into “play. Asia. Judaism. and the islands of the Atlantic. political. it is this large tableau— with its temporal. cultural. Idolatry was the dominant category under which the Portuguese and Spanish perceived Africans and American Indians during the ﬁfteenth century. When I refer to the imperial/colonial model of religion. As polytheists and demon worshipers. But we know that this was not the only way they (Africans at . racial. ethics. Paciﬁc. which distinguishes invidiously between Christianity and other religions. because he does not intend to. On the contrary. He does so. and economic—that are troubling. That is not all that I have in mind. He does not think about the ethics and politics of religion and representation at all. he speaks the “common sense” of his culture. as the height of religious evolution and as a revelation whose very “absurdity” confounds and throws into utter disarray preexisting notions of religion. What I will not argue is that Žižek intends to recapitulate the imperial/colonial model of religion. and Idolatry (King 1999. developments that in turn fed into and were conditioned by Christian Europe’s lingering anxieties toward its Jewish inhabitants and by competition and conﬂict between Christian and Islamic civilizations. For colonial modernity began with Portuguese and Spanish voyages of conquest consecrated by the Pope in the 1494 Treaty of Tordesillas.
At a time when the crusading spirit of Christendom was experiencing its last revival. the imperial/colonial model of religion was ﬁrmly in place. while the religions of the “people without history. primitive. On one side of an epistemic and normative dividing line were the world religions. allow me to make a remark about the pleasures and the perils of reading Žižek. When the Portuguese raided West African villages in 1441. To show that his recent work presupposes this model—despite his status as a progressive Marxist—is my task. Nature religions were African. they shouted “‘St. their African adventures were partially inspired by “a legendary Christian king called Prester John. One is simultaneously informed. the medieval quartet of Christianity.” who resided somewhere in Africa and whom they hoped to persuade “to join them in their crusade against the followers of Islam” (ibid. Indeed. I trace the reemergence of the imperial/colonial model of religion in the work of Žižek. Native American. and certainly by the nineteenth century. . or primal religion. 4).). on the other side were “nature religions. 9). George’ and ‘Santiago’ (St. even when he is wrong. ‘oriental’ periphery. ediﬁed. were relegated to the category of nature. Islam.” as Hegel would put it. the saints they always appealed to when raiding the outposts of Islam” (Raboteau 2001. and Idolatry had developed into the precursor of the “world religions” model. if not a high textual tradition. Judaism. By the time of the European Enlightenment. His courage. tribal. Native American. and ‘primitive’ outer-periphery is still the dominant way of organizing religious studies departments” (Hart 2002. the imperial/colonial “model with its Christian center. Thus the category of Idolatry as an all-purpose description of non-Abrahamic religion had all but disappeared as Asian religions were distinguished from African. is attractive. the Portuguese clearly saw Africans (at least some of them) as their Muslim enemies. and entertained. his willingness to criticize leftist conventions and common sense. that his politics are Eurocentric. World religions were European and Asian. Reading Žižek is a stimulating experience. and that Eurocentrism colors his view of Christianity and Marxism is also my burden. Before I attempt to shoulder so heavy a load. Ironically. To show that this model is constitutive of his politics. constituting the “common sense” through which religion was understood. In this essay. By the mid-nineteenth century. and Aboriginal religions and became constitutive members of the world religions club. James). Nature religions were nonliterate. and Aboriginal.556 Nepantla least) were perceived.” World religions were deﬁned in large part by the presence of literacy.
Since sin is an act of will and the transfusion violated her will. For in regard to the judge’s question (of whether she would be guilty of sin were the court to forcibly transfuse her). Imperial/Colonial Model of Religion even when his political judgment is questionable.’ the judge would order enforced transfusion” (Žižek 2000a. Thus she was in the enviable position of saying yes by saying no. Žižek’s most explicit effort to theorize religion in relation to Marxism is The Fragile Absolute. of the sensible and infrasensible “domains in which we think. by his endless creativity in reading both the philosophical tradition and popular culture through Lacanian lenses. even when his taste is “bad. contradictory.557 Hart . Her religious beliefs (let’s assume that she is a Christian Scientist) hold that transfusions are sinful. It does not force the woman. in the middle regions between a superﬁcial analysis and the kind of depth analysis that one ﬁnds. Žižek despises this solution as a lie. the powerful. which might lead him behave similarly were he facing a similar case. in Dipesh Chakrabarty’s “The Time of History and the Times of the Gods” (1997). and paradoxical ways in which religion works ideologically on the level of fantasy and affect. for example. then Žižek swims even deeper. As usual. and would not be condemned to hell and damnation.” My analysis is often little more than a writing between his lines. psychoanalytically speaking. 138). His appropriation of Jacques Lacan allows him to capture something important about religion that Hall misses. which Žižek recounts. Here is a formal coincidence between telling . If Stuart Hall’s “Religious Ideology and Social Movements in Jamaica” (1985) has greater depth than Marx’s account of religion. Her life could be saved without violating her religious conviction that transfusions are sinful or the liberal belief that coercing confessions is wrong. on the level of the viscera. Despite its noble intentions. and through which we value and disvalue” (Connolly 1999. an effort to understand Žižek’s deﬁciencies in light of his own critique. 177). within which intensities of cultural appraisal are stored. A liberal judge has a difﬁcult decision to make: How does he get the woman to consent to a blood transfusion without forcing her to violate her religious beliefs? The judge attempts to resolve this problem by forcing the woman to have a blood transfusion against her will. Thus he gives a better account of subject formation in religious ideology. Take the case. to confront her desire. the woman in question “knew perfectly well that if she answered ‘No. then she could not be held responsible for the act. of a woman who needs a lifesaving blood transfusion. the stomach. that is. one is stunned by Žižek’s sheer intelligence. Answering no would allow her to satisfy her true as opposed to her lying desire. and the amygdala.
the Lacanian difference between her stated desire (as “subject of statement”) and her unstated desire (as “subject of enunciation”). the idea of “ideological fantasy”—that help us to better understand the power of religious ideologies and the tenacious hold that they have on their subjects. I use the conceptual resources that Žižek provides to illustrate this blindness. . The woman in question speaks to the letter of the law. As one of my colleagues has said. deceives. and ideological fantasy. to explicate his concept of religion. that is. and lies. But if we are stunned by Žižek’s intelligence. when acknowledging the sinfulness of blood transfusion (she truly believes that transfusion is sinful). That I leave a great deal behind has as much to do with limitations of space as with my desire. or plenitude—then he remains blind to that object in his narrative of religion. and lurches from ostensible Lacanian insight (often illustrated by reference to a movie) to a stimulating reading of Marx. Through analyses such as this. Enunciations are about affects. a formal truth provides cover for a substantive lie. In this essay. 3). or ontological absence at the center of the subject. constitutive lack. Is his account serious? Is it parody? Is it analysis by way of perversion? Or analysis by way of hysteria? (Penney 2000. its propositional truth. They are the pronouncements of our unconscious desire. In this analysis. and nation—at the center of any notion of wholeness. then equally as stunning is his thorough captivity to the imperial/colonial model of religion. his brilliant analysis of Coke as an example of Lacan’s objet petit a) that I otherwise ﬁnd interesting and noteworthy. But she lies about her true desire and thus does not speak to the spirit of the law. If Žižek has identiﬁed the “sublime object of ideology” as a traumatic void. So I have nothing to say about a lot of things (for instance.” One is never sure of how to read Žižek. The Fragile Absolute.). by his ability to illuminate the ideological power of religion. This solution does not force the woman to face the truth of her desire. This enthrallment is only underscored by his often subtle and insightful analysis of ideology.” For “on the level of her subjective position of enunciation.” she endorses the very blood transfusion that as a proposition she rejects (ibid.558 Nepantla the truth and telling a lie. like all of Žižek’s texts. to what we might call the “truth effects of affect. speciﬁcally. Statements are propositional. They are public relations announcements for an ego that always dissembles. never sure of his mood. Žižek provides a powerful set of conceptual tools—most notably. completion. I will grab what I ﬁnd useful in Žižek’s “bag” and leave the rest behind. that is. instincts. It is hard to know as he meanders. digresses. ethnos. is something of a “grab bag.
up to the emerging religious sensitivity within deconstructionism itself (so-called ‘post-secular’ thought). inauthentic Christianity. which I refuse to concede to liberalism or to Žižek’s critique. Thus I will only mark the chain of equivalence between fundamentalism. Žižek advocates “fully endorsing what one is accused of : yes. even if that kind of language and politics is multiculturalism’s dominant mode of articulation. and piety that I call the multicultural multitude. rather portentously. Christianity and Marxism should ﬁght on the same side of the barricade against the onslaught of new spiritualisms—the authentic Christian legacy is much too precious to be left to the fundamentalist freaks” (2). Žižek is a provocative writer whose very style invites counterprovocation. fears. whose legitimate interests. as nonuniversal. through the multitude of New Age spiritualisms.” Before proceeding. there is a direct lineage from Christianity to Marxism. I am being intentionally provocative. and paganism. as nonuniversalizable? I wonder. I will return to these questions later. a disclaimer: I share Žižek’s disdain for liberal multiculturalism. and forms of religiosity. spirituality. furthermore. as a result of agonistic struggle. perspectives. He seeks to universalize European difference to the detriment. . Imperial/Colonial Model of Religion Žižek (2000a. which he construes in summary fashion as “fundamentalist freaks. not as an antecedent. transcendental a priori but as a consequent. freakishness. by deﬁnition a ‘ﬁghting materialist’ (Lenin). maybe perverse. of the multicultural multitude. from Christian and other fundamentalisms. What one notices immediately is that Žižek puts Christianity and Marxism on the same side and against the multicultural multitude. with the following statement: “One of the most deplorable aspects of the postmodern era and its so-called ‘thought’ is the return of the religious dimension in all its different guises. in using the term multicultural multitude. and desires cannot be reduced to the language of liberal pluralism and the politics of political correctness. to criticize much of the academiccultural Left for fetishizing difference and underplaying the virtues of universality. How is a Marxist. yes. that is. Under the cover of a legitimate and necessary critique of difference. to counter this massive onslaught of obscurantism?” Against the obvious answer of ferociously attacking these tendencies and mercilessly denouncing the residual religiosity within Marxism. 1) begins his analysis. New Age spirituality. To answer these questions now would be premature. Can Žižek imagine the agonistic universalization of non-European difference? Or is the nonEuropean markered. by deﬁnition. I think that he is right. the ensemble of peoples. Žižek smuggles illegitimate claims for Europe.559 Hart . I fear.
560 Nepantla By putting Christianity and Marxism on the same side. 1824.” He urges “us” to stick to this logic against the “onslaught of New Age neo-paganism. in fact. if you can call it explication. in a set of reﬂections that have a serial but not a narrative relation. and thus placing them against the others. cancelled. and against its neopagan. whether “paleo” or “neo. 1827. Judeo-Christian Logic According to Žižek.” Pagans. from Oriental to Occidental. but more important. Spirit. This model. 83) account. but one gets the sneaking suspicion that it is a Lacanian logic avant la lettre. Judeo-Christian logic provides the theoretical and political weapons that “we” need in the ﬁght against Capital. and even essentially to Europe. even—of the notion of fantasy. from fetish to Christ. rather than “the violent singular excess that sustains every notion of such an order”. there is a “Judeo-Christian logic. 132. They think of fantasy as an idiosyncratic derangement of cosmic order. fundamentalist. Žižek has not said clearly what that logic is. Judeo-Christian logic allows us to apprehend the “ontological paradox—scandal. by linking them uniquely. quoted in Žižek 2000a. 83). 1831). He explicates this logic. what interests him most are the correlations that he can make been this logic and Lacan.” simply get fantasy wrong. philosophy would not be possible without it. But do not Žižek’s accounts of Marxism and Christianity make similar moves? Are not Christianity and Marxism—at least in his account—two sides of a Eurocentric narrative of colonial modernity? I attempt to answer these questions in the remainder of this essay. they construe fantasy as . from the dark continent to the continent of enlightenment. is given its most thorough philosophical exposition by Hegel in four series of Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion (1821. In any event. from primitive to civilized. irremediably.” The virtues of this logic are as profound as the vices of neopagans. Christianity sits at the top of religious development. from black to white. from East to West. To this point. that is. God moves spatiotemporally from South to North. and lifted higher) by philosophy. They think that fantasy is subjective when. Žižek reafﬁrms the imperial/colonial model in the theory of religion. who are fundamentalist freaks under a different description. In these lectures Hegel develops an evolutionary schema in which Geist. and multicultural proxies. And while it too must be sublated (preserved. transformed. which Žižek appears to have appropriated without reservation. On my gloss of Žižek’s (2000a. it belongs to the anomalous category of the “objectively-subjective” (Dennett 1991.
there is nothing speculative. his account of an inﬁnite melancholy in nature. and that they were born just a little bit too early. precisely as a Christian. By historical experience he means a movie! Federico Fellini’s Satyricon is his evidence. a longing for fresh air. Further. or nonsensical about this account. a deadlock. Thus they deny that error. of the imperial/colonial matrix from which it emerged. this is quite astonishing in light of the naiveté of his evolutionary narrative of religion. an “unresolved absolute tension” that only the logos in “man” can redeem. On Žižek’s reading. and lying are metaphysical constituents of truth. so that they cannot be redeemed? And is this not also the fundamental lesson of the Hegelian dialectics of alienation: we are not dealing with the Paradise which is then lost due to some fatal intrusion—there is already in paradisiacal satisfaction (in the satisfaction of the “naïve” organic community) something suffocating. Imperial/Colonial Model of Religion external and abnormal rather than constitutive of the norm (Žižek 2000a. he wanted to make a ﬁlm about a universe in which Christianity is yet to come. distortion. whose history makes his Hegelian account of religion suspect. Now. for an opening that would break the unbearable constraint. of these pagan ﬁgures not. a desire to break out—life in Paradise is always pervaded by an inﬁnite melancholy. a kind of fundamental melancholy. On the contrary. (88) According to Žižek. teleological. This observation sets up a claim about the soteriological complexity and superiority of Christianity that he has been working toward all along: Fellini himself claimed that. Žižek stops short of dismissing Shelling’s account as “crazy teleological speculation” insofar as it has an analogue in historical experience. the “Ancient Roman hedonistic ﬁgures” depicted in this movie are “permeated by an inﬁnite sadness” (87). it is the only way of avoiding the naiveté of an evolutionary narrative. from which the notion of Christian redemption is yet to come. they are oblivious to Friedrich Shelling’s mood. 86). bear witness to the fact that they somehow already have the premonition that the true God will soon reveal Himself. from which the notion of Christian redemption is totally absent. then. a muteness before an inﬁnite pain. Does the strange sadness.561 Hart . and this longing introduces into Paradise an unbearable inﬁnite Pain. Even the wise and dusky wings .
They only expose more sharply its inadequacy. Lamaism. to the south and to the east.” Taoism. Mongols. In ascending rank order. and (3) Consummate Religion. a retrospective assessment) are not enough to save this account from the ridicule that it deserves. Roman Religion. 229–30. Greek Religion. even blind.2 Ignorance of this difference distinguishes “pre-Christian religions. Žižek baptizes Martin Heidegger’s ontological difference as Judeo-Christian. then it alone can give a proper account of eternity. probably Hegel’s model. “religion that is for itself. The differences between the others are matters of degree. Indians. 391). Hinduism. animism. Africans. irremediable wound or inﬁnite sadness that we cannot speak or put into historical context because it resists the symbolizing and historicizing work of language. In effect. Egyptian Religion. Buddhism. which is an eternal.” Notice: he doesn’t say other religions or nonChristian religions but pre-Christian. But on this matter. not only do the two orders of ascent fail to map up perfectly. in which Judaism is the Sublime Religion and Christianity is the Consummate Religion. the one between them and Christianity is a difference in kind. and ancient Romans. Before and behind these religions. If Judeo-Christian logic is antievolutionary. are the pre-Christian religions: (1) “Immediate or Natural Religion. He calls such religions pre-Christian because he is employing an evolutionary model. Judeo-Christian logic comprehends the negativity of eternity. Burmese. as Žižek contends. These lists are a little misleading. and Christianity (Hegel 1988. eternity as the negative condition for the emergence of time. And this is true despite the fact that . Persian Religion.” which is self-conscious. the ontological difference between time and eternity. (2) Mediated Religion. they also obscure the categorical difference between Christianity as Consummate (superhistorical) Religion and all the others as Determinate (historical) Religion. 205–15. which can take itself as an object of inquiry. one discovers the following “ascent of ‘Religion Man’”: from Eskimos. If one does an ethnography of this schema. Chinese. ancient Greeks. where the spiritual is elevated above the natural. And what he has to say about Walter Benjamin’s idiosyncratic notions of messianism and other antievolutionary gestures does not save his account. the list of religions are: magic (fetishism.” where Spirit has yet to extricate itself from nature—Spirit being the proper measure of “man”. eternity as that which time excludes. This logic stands against a pagan logic that denies the founding power of trauma. 235. Jewish Religion. Jews.562 Nepantla of Minerva (that is. Žižek seems oddly indifferent.3 to modern Europeans. primitivism). the “State Religion of the Chinese Empire.
and to the surplus populations it inevitably produces. since this episteme is bigger than Hegel—then Žižek bears a certain burden of proof. Imperial/Colonial Model of Religion there is no place in Hegel’s philosophy for the kind of gaps and conceptual leaps that one ﬁnds. “Thus. history. If I am correct in assuming Žižek’s reliance on Hegel—and even if I am not. Hegel is driven by the dialectics of his own logic—with its failure to adequately address the political economy of civil society. between “primitive” religions and “world historical” religions.” The structural imperfections (contradictions) inherent in civil society made colonialism attractive. the distinction between lower and higher races. then he ignores the context of colonial modernity and. Žižek must be considered guilty until proven innocent. 311). He must explain why his Hegelianism does not commit him to Hegel’s account of religion. the evolutionary and hierarchical episteme of eighteenth. which places the poor/nonproductive/superﬂuous classes outside the modern system of justice that is based on property ownership—to advocate colonialism as a solution. If Žižek explicates the antievolutionary character of Judeo-Christian logic in relation to eternity.and nineteenth-century comparative religion. even necessary. there is a constitutive relation between pre-Darwinian evolutionary theory. and claims for the preeminence of European Man. Tsenay Serequeberhan and Jorge Larrain provide the kind of accounts that Žižek needs to confront if he is to exonerate himself. it would be foolish not to raise the question of Žižek’s complicity. his dissident follower. for example. non-European territories which do not share the peculiar European idea of property and society and thus do not have the strange problem of ‘overproduction’ are . Here an inversion of the ethical-juridical mood is appropriate. According to Serequeberhan (1989. As the quotations with which I opened this essay show. thus. Hegel’s account reﬂects the conﬁdence of a Christian Europe that was well on its way (in 1827) to reducing most of the globe to a colony.563 Hart . and politics. colonialism is the only solution to the market imperfections of civil society. “that is compatible with the basic terms of his [Hegel’s] perspective and the European reality upon which and out of which he reﬂected. in the philosophy of Søren Kierkegaard. which inexorably produces poverty. In the absence of an account that distinguishes his views from this tradition. which is constitutive of the very notion of Judeo-Christianity. Serequeberhan shows why Hegel’s political philosophy—which is integrally connected to his philosophies of history and religion by the evolutionary/hierarchical motif—requires colonialism.
Say. The concepts and images that Serequeberhan and Larrain identify in the work of the classical political economists. that is. allowing us to place Serequeberhan’s account in a larger context. On this view. which regards the British bourgeoisie as the privileged representative of capitalist emancipation and progress. the nineteenth. which for centuries had been deﬁned externally by its Islamic other. the universal and messianic class. Malthus. that Europeans fell in love with ancient Greece and struggled with anxieties about the relative importance of “Athens and Jerusalem” in the formation of European identity. “is the proletariat of the most advanced European capitalist nations. Ricardo). through imperial encounters between an emerging West and the “rest”—from the conquest of the Americas to the colonization of India to the “scramble for Africa. an immovable foreign body within the imagined community of the European body politic.” What these perspectives hold in common is “a kind of Eurocentrism: the belief that the progress brought about by these historical actors in capitalist Western Europe is inherently superior and has a historical mission which must ﬁnally prevail in the world” (Larrain 1991.” Are the Jews Stealing Žižek’s Jouissance? Žižek’s account of religion is an artifact of the ethno-philosophical discourse of colonial modernity.564 Nepantla labeled ‘generally backward in industry’ and thereby become the legitimate prey of colonialist expansion” (ibid. and presages Marx and Engels’s notion that the most important proletariat. of the imperial/colonial “machine.” the latter of which occurred in the century of Hegel’s death. It was during that same century. whose mediation/transformation by Arab-Islamic culture was increasingly disavowed (on this view. and the imagery of darkest Africa—are examples of what David Spurr (1993) calls “the rhetoric of empire. Was Europe fundamentally Hebraic or Hellenistic? Jewish or Greek? And what was the relation between these traditions and Christianity? Jews were a troubling presence.). Arab-Islamic culture was merely the caretaker or valet of Western culture) often went hand-in-hand .” The ethnographic material on which Hegel relies and that Žižek presupposes became available. primarily. and in the work of Hegel and Marx—including the notion of “peoples without history. Hegel’s distinction between “world historical peoples” and “peoples without history” presupposes classical political economy (Smith.” the concept of the white man’s burden. 239). The recovery of ancient Greek learning. Larrain provides an account of what we might call the imperial/colonial episteme of nineteenth-century Europe.
formed themselves into a commonwealth under purely political laws. as History. Christianity is a ‘religion of Love’: in love. religion for Hegel is a term of praise. Žižek has no such doubts: he is positively certain of Christianity’s superiority. and no religion is stricter in this regard than Christianity. focuses on. and differentially between higher and lower races. As with Kant. For Hegel religion is a mark of humanity. one singles out. 96). in relation to Hegel’s expressed doubt about whether the religion of magic is even worthy of the name religion at all. as God. since true religion is a by-product of strict adherence to the moral law. I read Kant’s position on Judaism. . a ﬁnite temporal object which ‘means more than anything else’” (ibid. He accomplishes this sublation through his notion of Judeo-Christian logic. . Imperial/Colonial Model of Religion with an effort to establish the superiority of Christianity to Judaism. He never says why this question is delicate. In his 1793 text. and not into a church.” Kant is not being complimentary. One has to read between the lines. it distinguishes absolutely between humanity and animality. Again. In this precise sense. this logic—and here we return to the question of time and eternity—is opposed to pagan or pre-Christian religions. Žižek seeks a gentle way of leaving Judaism behind while simultaneously bringing it along. this is an account in which Judaism comes up short in the game of comparative religion. since they belonged to a particular stock. The Spirit. Kierkegaard—is to insist on the invasion of the temporal by the eternal. his skepticism about its religiousness. On the contrary. see also Žižek 2000b. The genius of Christianity—and here one suspects that Žižek is following without attribution that great anti-Hegelian Hegelian. And he poses what he calls “the delicate question of the relationship between Judaism and Christianity” (Žižek 2000a. It would be incorrect to say that Hegel questioned the humanity of Jews. 97). Christianity confounds pagan wisdom by offering “Christ as a mortaltemporal individual. in favor of the True Divine Object which alone can provide Inﬁnite Bliss” (Žižek 2000a. Kant (1960. but he certainly doubted the equality of Judaism. In his account. 116) says that “Judaism is really not a religion at all but merely a union of a number of people who. They remain merely at the level of wisdom because they stoically “emphasize the insufﬁciency of every temporal ﬁnite object . Žižek also appropriates Kierkegaard’s notion of inﬁnite passion.565 Hart . 663). Perhaps Žižek is reticent because to speak about the anti-Semitic obscene and monstrous . and insists that belief in the temporal Event of Incarnation is the only path to eternal truth and salvation. Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone. moves from East to West and leaves Judaism behind.
“is in denial. and as such attached to . On the contrary. to put it colloquially. to acknowledge the extralegal event (the founding “crime” and. . would force him to deal with imperialism/colonialism and its relation to his account of religion. and/or subordination of the Jews (the obscene underside). In evading this question. which refuses to confess. before Žižek’s notions of Europe and universality can be consolidated. he argues “that it is the Jewish religion which remains an ‘abstract/immediate’ negation of anthropomorphism. which confesses. that is. Judaism must be cast down. thus. . Before Christianity can rise to the top. obscene underside) that undergirds every law and every order and that “haunts the public legal order as its spectral supplement” (ibid. This inner split is simultaneously the split between Christianity.). Žižek argues. Isn’t the point of Paul’s message of agape.). and Judaism. what if the standard argument “that pagan (pre-Jewish) gods were ‘anthropomorphic’” and that “the Jewish religion . He disputes the claim that Christianity stands intermediate between the thoroughgoing anthropomorphism of paganism and the radical iconoclasm of Judaism.566 Nepantla underside of Christianity (ibid. Judaism. between the symbolic Law (language) and secret crime. because of Jews’ “‘stubborn attachment’” (Žižek borrows Judith Butler’s term) to the ghost that haunts them. expulsion. 97).” which brings them up short (Žižek 2000a. was the ﬁrst thoroughly to ‘de-anthropomorphize’ Divinity” is false (103)? Doesn’t the very prohibition of worship of other gods suggest that Jews had a propensity to do so? This is the train of Žižek’s reasoning. refuses to confess.” It is split between its public and secret aspects. to an “entanglement of Law and its spectral double” (100). which acknowledges its dirty secret. to personify. Judaism. It presents a distorted picture of Christianity as tied. “to their secret disavowed tradition. Žižek asks rhetorically. which always already entails the subordination of pagans.4 But even this account. the “originary” crime. its obscene underside. that we should leave this vicious cycle behind? Doesn’t Pauline agape cut the Gordian knot of “Law and its founding Transgression?”5 If the answer to these questions is yes—Žižek’s conﬁdence that it is and my doubt notwithstanding—then isn’t Christianity’s superiority even greater than we imagined? Moreover. transgression. is prerequisite to the universal and hierarchical claims that he makes for the Christian legacy. Judaism proves deﬁcient because of its dogmatism. and obscenity on which the Law is founded. as he might put it were he referring to fundamentalist freaks. is inadequate. through what Foucault calls the confessional mode of discourse. he makes explicit that conquest.
proponents of “deviant” sexualities. Thus Judaism is salutary in refusing “to assert love for the neighbor outside the conﬁnes of the Law” (112). It is “the negation of the negation. and to establish the superiority of the latter. Christians no longer need prohibitions against graven images. This refusal prevents neighborly love “from degrading into a narcissistic (mis)recognition of my mirror-image” . determined by it in its very direct negation. and liberal advocates of human rights. lie. He calls them neopagans and fundamentalist freaks.6 Thus. Christians. Christianity has attained a critically mediated universality that Judaism has not. Thus in using icons (the negation of the negation). for the politically correct. acknowledge the supersensible and nonrepresentational nature of God. that is. This multicultural multitude (horde) reduces the Judeo-Christian injunction “to love and respect your neighbor” to an imaginary doubling or mirroring of the self. kill. 676). thus. who are neither confused nor idolatrous. Finally. In Žižek’s Hegelian narrative of Christian triumphalism. 110). to worship false gods. to steal. human rights is little more than the right to violate the Ten Commandments. This is the universalizing logic found only in Christianity and its Marxist legacy that Žižek suggests “we” hold on to in the face of New Age neopaganism. the conclusion toward which he has been working. quotation on 104).” It negates. This is the payoff that Žižek has been seeking.” To translate this from Hegelese into English. Christianity goes further than Judaism. 108–9. and so on. see also Žižek 2000b. 97–100. in a different category altogether. Judaism has been put in its proper place. All attempt to rewrite the past so as to abolish “the Real of a traumatic encounter whose structuring role in the subject’s psychic economy forever resists its symbolic rewriting” (Žižek 2000a. Žižek names his enemies.567 Hart . whereas it is only Christianity that actually ‘sublates’ paganism” (Žižek 2000a. But even here Žižek is anxious to distinguish the Jewish and Christian components of Judeo-Christian logic. of neighborly love is denied. Its iconoclasm is stricter. Also on his enemies list are “PC” (politically correct) racial minorities. Judaism’s “‘abstract/immediate’ negation of anthropomorphism. quotation on 109. Judaism stands above the other religions that Hegel called “determinant” (excepting Roman religion) but below Christianity—indeed. which is to say that it imagines a Law and Order that doesn’t wound. In violating the Decalogue they violate Lacan who “directly inscribes psychoanalysis into the Judaic tradition” (Žižek 2000a. Imperial/Colonial Model of Religion it. The PC horde imagines love and respect without trauma. Such prohibitions (negations) have done their pedagogical work. The irreducibly traumatic character of the neighbor and.
Evil is deﬁned as disharmony. the Symbolic order. Thus he turns away from the . The South and other geographies. The pagan cosmos is one of hierarchy. It scandalizes pagan wisdom by speaking of the individual’s “immediate access to universality (of nirvana. Rather than pursuing this point. But Christianity is better. is subversive of “this global balanced cosmic Order” (Žižek 2000a.7 much less the evolutionary/hierarchical character of Hegel’s overall philosophy. and universal while the East is not. Christianity. 114). What I will focus on instead is yet another argument that Žižek makes for the comparative superiority of Christianity to Judaism. Žižek retreats into a discussion of the philosophical sublime. Hegel’s inconsistency is driven by his anti-Semitism. In contrast. that Žižek comes to addressing the imperial/colonial implications of Hegel’s philosophy of religion is The Sublime Object of Ideology (1989). There he mentions Yirmiahu Yovel’s critique of Hegel’s inconsistency and anti-Semitism. of course.). In this regard. 120). Žižek contrasts the global character of pagan religions and the universal character of Christianity. on the one hand.568 Nepantla (ibid. or. according to which “‘disagreement and agreement alike are intelligible only against a background of massive agreement’” (Davidson 1984. Thus Judaism (the religion of sublimity) preceeds Greek religion (the religion of beauty) even though this violates the Kantian order—ﬁrst the beautiful. Law) and Davidson’s principle of charity. While he spends some time comparing and contrasting Lacan’s “Big Other” (language. it is the violent intrusion of Difference that precisely throws the balanced circuit of the universe off the rails” (121). The closest. Indeed. The superiority (universality) of one principle is never asserted over others. That Žižek includes nirvana on his list of the vectors of universality does not change its Orientalist color.). “Christianity is the miraculous Event that disturbs the balance of the One-All [pagan cosmology]. he recapitulates the standard Orientalist notion that the West (he marks Christianity as Western) is dynamic. On the contrary. today. on the other. Žižek develops this argument in relation to the views of Donald Davidson. of human Rights and freedoms)” (ibid. so far as I can tell. 187. of the Holy Spirit. do not ﬁgure in his account. then the sublime—on which Hegel’s account depends. and to paganism. Christian love goes beyond Jewish law by breaking the vicious cycle of law and sin. as they do not in Hegel’s infamous claim that Africa is static and ahistorical and that history moves from East to West. and disruption. historical. by its very nature. derangement. that discussion can be dispensed with for my purposes. quoted in Žižek 2000a. and balance. harmony. revolutionary.
from the bodily practices. that is. Or perhaps it isn’t so odd. we have seen and will see how he constructs the non-Western. as a community sustained by organic bonds. is to show how Žižek’s analysis helps to illuminate “the fascistic moment of every culture. non-Christian other as lacking true politics. 413–14) point. the object treasure—is being threatened by “pagans at the gate. In reading Žižek against himself. his pain-ﬁlled satisfaction. if they are not responsible for his jouissance. where meanings are misread and signs are misappropriated. and those that he skewers as “fundamentalist freaks. Imperial/Colonial Model of Religion torn ﬂesh and red blood of the historical sublime. While Doug Akoi’s (1996. and the agonism of cultural difference. as .” there is no better description of the operation that Žižek performs on the multicultural multitude: Žižek argues that there is an irreducible gap between the fantasy of culture as a Gemeinschaft/ethnos/Nation-Cause/shared thing. This gap. This other threatens the wholesome Western/European/Christian body politic. and tortures of anti-Semitism and colonial modernity to the discourse of a philosophy seminar (Žižek 1989. Žižek has a rather odd notion of Eurocentrism. true ethics. which as it turns out is not a digression at all but a constitutive part of Žižek’s argument for the universality of Christianity and its superiority to paganism. non-European. This will allow me to tie in the ﬁnal thread of Žižek’s account of religion in The Fragile Absolute. then it seems a sure bet that the motley crew of “village idiots” (pagans). If the Jews did not steal Žižek’s love object. opened up by the imaginariness of culture. disciplines.” The Plague of Eurocentric Fantasies I will pursue the ﬁnal part of this analysis by way of a digression on Eurocentrism.” are. motivates the displacement of its immanent impossibility onto an ideological fantasy of a pathological Other who threatens the wholesome body politic. true universality. The European/Christian ethnos—its possession of the love object. This is the formal conversion of the negativity of cultural lack into the despised positivity of the alien Thing—the new old nationalism translated into Hegelese. in the following passage.569 Hart . 201–2). He claims that politics proper is of ancient Greek derivation.
homogeneous. 991). and ultrapolitics are. while archepolitics (communitarianism). Žižek contends. the African. the Turk. Postpolitics is rule by market forces.” Id-evil. as Žižek notes. but operates. that is. It is “the paradoxical satisfaction. It feeds the growth of what Žižek calls “id-evil. the Japanese. The history of European political thought. Politics proper accents democratic antagonism. without the paradox of particularity occupying the space of universality. which is the enjoyment not pleasure that we derive from our pain. 92). metapolitics (Marxism). As the Real is the impossible to say. and the police. “stages the most elementary short-circuit in the relationship of the subject to the primordially missing object-cause of his desire. Thus archepolitics. and plenitudinous social space that is organically structured. “that the subject derives from his symptom. the suffering that he derives from his own satisfaction. It is the universalization of the particular. What bothers us in the Other (the Jew.” The motive of such evil.” Rather. on the level of the id. or (4) transforming antagonism (through a false radicalism) into war (990–92). in Freudian terms. consensus. parapolitics. this antagonism is not spoken. 998–99). however. the competitive (and salutary) struggle for universality.570 Nepantla such. They “deantagonize” politics proper by (1) construing it as a closed. with the Leviathan of the sovereign state as their sum total. an excessive “devotion to some ideological ideal. metapolitics. which needs to be democratically and agonistically mediated. Žižek believes that there is no politics without an agonistic struggle for universality. to put it another way. postpolitical. or. which is the proper logic of politics. and the explosion “of excessive ethnic or religious fundamentalist violence.” including new forms of racism.8 Politics proper always entails a paradoxical “short circuit between the universal and the particular” (988).) of democratic antagonism. Politics is not the globalization of difference but the universalization of particularity. parapolitics (Jürgen Habermas and John Rawls). below the level of the ego. and ultrapolitics (Carl Schmitt) subvert democratic antagonism in a variety of ways. it is “something speciﬁcally ‘European’” (Žižek 1998. is neither ego-selﬁshness nor superego-fanaticism. out of the Symbolic realm and into the Real. (3) reducing politics to the status of a “shadow theater” whose real act is always economic and always offstage. tolerant humanism. is “nothing but a series of disavowals” (ibid.” according to Dylan Evans (1996. multiculturalism. This postpolitical turn succeeds in pushing real antagonism. and so forth) is that he appears to entertain . not a globalizing politics of difference but a universalizing politics that everyone can identify with. (2) establishing clear rules and procedures. in fact. it is jouissance (Zizek 1998. that is.
universality. on fundamentalist freaks and New Age neopagans. The temptation. then only Marxist universalism—which is a Christian legacy. for those who otherwise ﬁnd his insights compelling. 8). Imperial/Colonial Model of Religion a privileged relationship to the object” (Žižek 1998. This is why he argues so strongly for the comparative superiority of Christianity to paganism and Judaism. is why Žižek thinks that proper politics. That being the case. 999). values. This id-logic or logic of the Real is the consequence of the postpolitical turn (on the Symbolic level) from democratic antagonism to tolerant humanism and multicultural consensus. a politics of democratic antagonism and universality. however. evolutionary/hierarchical model of religion from his politics. but it is difﬁcult to draw any other conclusion. and Europe are a uniquely precious if fragile ensemble. What is hard to understand. The value of such retrievals itself is sufﬁcient justiﬁcation. This should give pause to any reader who is tempted to separate Žižek’s Hegelian. What does Žižek fear? His fear as far as I can tell is tied to the privileged role that the notion of universality plays in his thinking. and Marxism. is essentially European. This privileged Other “possesses the object-treasure. Žižek fears that the decline of Eurocentrism may mean the loss of universality. Eurocentric. 49).” having stolen it from us “(which is why we don’t have it). ﬁltered and augmented by Lacan. Thus Žižek blames what Europe lacks on the multicultural multitude. One is no more likely to ﬁnd a culturally and socially autonomous and atomistic notion of politics in Žižek’s work than in Hegel’s work. of course—can displace capitalism. For Žižek Christianity. like many others. Given what he regards as the European provenance of Christianity and Marxism. What is at stake? I ask this question because Žižek’s argument is in excess of his theoretical needs.” or threatens “our possession of the object” (Žižek 2000a. I cannot help but ask why he overstates his case. This is odd. Marxism. If Christian universalism has been put in jeopardy if not displaced by capitalist universalism. in particular his view that there are only three competing and/or complimentary forms of universalism: Christianity. He stops just short of this explicit claim. Žižek never . Interestingly enough. to quarantine Žižek’s politics from his other views is understandable but wrong.571 Hart . That he is in the grips of ideological fantasy is evident by the fact that the very argument against Eurocentrism—the notion that it can ﬁll the constitutive emptiness at the center of things—starts to function as an argument in its favor (Žižek 1989. Žižek need not argue for Eurocentrism to justify selectively retrieving various aspects of the European legacy that he. Capitalism.
. negating. as I have developed it. A reprise of Žižek’s argument in The Fragile Absolute. In describing this process. True. in its cruder. One is almost forced to read this account as parody so as not to laugh. Christianity seems to be a case of the superego gone amok. the superiority of Christianity. while Christianity is properly post–vicious cycle. If Marxism is indebted to Christianity. improper forms. while preserving the law. which poses so many problems for the narrative that Žižek constructs. For Christianity. from “theoretical humanism. But I suspect that this is no laughing matter for Žižek. thus the concept of Judeo-Christianity. As the only bearers of messianic universalism. goes beyond Judaism. For Christianity is superior to Judaism. is the absolute (126–28). 127). and lifting higher. For only a perverse genius could make Saint Paul speak Lacanian. It suspends this monstrous supplement. Christianity “manipulates guilt much more effectively” (Žižek 2000a. He is serious. goes something like this: Marxism and Christianity share a common ancestry. This is the Hegelian logic of Aufhebung. embodies the greatest strengths of Judaism while avoiding its greatest weaknesses. however fragile and ﬂeeting.9 Islam. Paul is as rigorous an antihumanist as Louis Althusser. Žižek is clearly in a generous mood. of sublation. which haunts the law like an angry ghost. perhaps perverse genius. One is not sure whether this is a mark of genius or perversity. we unplug from the law. Judaism is properly pre– the vicious cycle of law and sin.” from “an idealized Romantic universe in which all concrete social differences magically disappear” (Žižek 2000a. Thus Christian love—to return to one of the threads of Žižek’s argument that I want to pull a little further— succeeds in decoupling law and transgression. thus pulling the plug on a vicious cycle. is a foregone conclusion. 142) than Judaism. On this revised view. Thus he partially rehabilitates Judaism vis-à-vis Christianity. moreover. Indeed. then Christianity is indebted to Judaism. But it is important to maintain their difference while acknowledging their unity. Marxism and Christianity should join forces against the competing universalism of capitalism.572 Nepantla mentions Islam. of desire and guilt. If the ultimate outcome. is also absent from Hegel’s account! Is this merely an interesting coincidence? Perhaps. Thus. only Christianity can do this work. of simultaneously preserving. Christianity uncouples the law and its spectral obscene supplement. where transgressions of the spirit of the law are judged as severely as transgressions of the letter of the law. in its cruder forms. Žižek still manages to surprise us along the way. through Pauline agape. Marxism should embrace its Christian heritage. transforming. According to Žižek.
a subject. again and again. love is the work of love—the hard and arduous work of repeated “uncoupling” in which. They waged a two-front war against Jews and pagans. and from the more subterranean anxieties of inﬂuence that characterize Christianity’s relations with paganism. Imperial/Colonial Model of Religion for which truth and not one’s pathological. In making this judgment. Does not Fascism ultimately involve the return of the pagan mores which. as his basic claim: As every true Christian knows. especially when they proclaim themselves Christian. rejecting the love . plus an internal war against Christian deviants. Whether Žižek can “properly” be called a Christian intellectual or not.573 Hart . Christians do not because they have broken out of the vicious cycle. they have not broken into the vicious cycle. has long vexed Christian intellectuals. which may be good Christian theology but is bad history. I take the following passage. social theory. then Christianity is still superior because it has sublated. Thus crude. it seems. tolerated and even modestly supported by us so that we were not too bothered by it. Here. broken out of a vicious cycle that Judaism has never broken into. emotional investment in that truth is what matters. we have to disengage ourselves from the inertia that constrains us to identify with the particular order we were born into. that is. Nietzsche had it right. inauthentic Christianity simply misses the point when it accuses Jews of being hypocritical. If neither Judaism nor Christianity is guilty of what it is commonly accused. of trying to cheat God “by seeking ways of obeying God’s commandments and prohibitions literally. improper. and phenomenology. Neither occupies the middle ground of the vicious cycle: Jews do not because they do not experience guilt. with its crushed dreams and desires—it is this Christian heritage of “uncoupling” that is threatened by today’s fundamentalisms. Žižek uses Paul as read by Hegel and Hegel as read by Lacan to put Judaism in its proper place. with all the anxieties of inﬂuence that entails. Through the Christian work of compassionate love. The task of distinguishing Christianity from Judaism. the ‘vanishing mediator’ between the Jewish religion and Christianity” (145). desiring. thus Islam was initially seen as a Christian heresy. while nonetheless retaining what they desire” (140). Again. he takes on the task. we discern in what was hitherto a disturbing foreign body. Christians are ignorant of a paradox: “that the vicious dialectic of Law and its transgression elaborated by Saint Paul is the invisible third term.
which Edward Said and others have shown is one of the most . cultivate full identiﬁcation with one’s own ethnic community? (Žižek 2000a. neopagans. Isn’t his antipaganism and antifundamentalism a “pathological. Christianity is the fragile absolute. And yet. New Age spiritualists.10 But what about the constitutive void at the center of Europe. to deploy Orientalist discourse. without reservation. doesn’t Žižek blame this lack on pagans and fundamentalist freaks. Marxism is a legacy of Christian Europe. the ontological lack underwriting the very notion of Eurocentrism? To put a ﬁner point on an observation that I made earlier.574 Nepantla of one’s enemy. Thus Christian love creates a new subjectivity. authentic Christianity breaks out of the vicious cycle of law and sin that characterizes the human condition by renouncing “the transgressive fantasmatic supplement that attaches us to it” (149). where “we catch a glimpse of Another Space which can no longer be dismissed as a fantasmatic supplement to social reality” (158). Coda In The Ticklish Subject (1999) and in other works. what it desires most—just as Medea and Sethe attack and kill their children. and inauthentic Christians represent the “return of the repressed” (a case of the Empire striking back) in Žižek’s neo-Hegelian account of religion? If Christianity is the fragile absolute. Colonial modernity is that of which Žižek cannot speak. Christianity attacks itself. Kierkegaard binds Isaac for sacriﬁce. it is the “impossible Real” in his account of religion. with how he has constructed these ﬁgures to escape a certain deadlock of his desire. which is the abode of agonistic universality or true politics. 128–29) On Žižek’s account. the question that he must confront is how he invests the ideological ﬁgures of the pagan and the fundamentalist with his unconscious desire. the ultimate antifascist gesture. paranoid construction” (Žižek 1989. Could it be that the multicultural multitude of fundamentalist freaks. his own lack of reﬂectivity allows him. then colonial modernity is the absolute trauma. on those whom I call the multicultural multitude? Isn’t he accusing them of stealing his jouissance? To paraphrase Žižek. and God gives his only son to be cruciﬁed—and this is the ultimate meaning of uncoupling. Žižek deplores the global reﬂexivity or “ticklish” character of contemporary Western life. 48)? Perhaps this accounts for the severity of Žižek’s critique of the non-Christian other.
For as Mark Twain once observed. can follow him while continuing a money-grubbing.” he offers this bit of Orientalist profundity: “One can now understand why the Dalai Lama is much more appropriate for our postmodern. is that Žižek is ignorant of his ignorance.575 Hart .”11 but is still acting as if he did not. in Heidegger’s language. 4. Thus in his essay “Melancholy and the Act” (Žižek 2000b. Unless otherwise speciﬁed. even the most decadent Hollywood star. permissive times.] 1. the pope reminds us that there is a price to pay for a proper ethical attitude. Žižek (1989. . Eds. He presents us with a vague. The point. then Žižek’s is an ideological ignorance. 2. Or maybe this is a case of ideological fantasy. In Spinoza’s language. everyone is ignorant about something. his observation about the Pope and the Dalai Lama—which is a comparative theory of religion in microcosm that recapitulates the Orientalist and primitivist history of comparative religion. which is an important modality of knowledge production in imperial/colonial modernity—dovetails nicely with his Eurocentic fantasy in which the universality/absolutism of Christianity (and its Marxist legacy) is the only viable obstacle to global capitalism. both negative and positive. rather. feel-good spiritualism without any speciﬁc obligations. promiscuous lifestyle. I am aware that evolutionary and hierarchical can be construed in a variety of ways. In any event. Notes [The next issue of Nepantla.1. the refusal of knowledge. this is the distinction between natura naturans (nature naturing) and natura naturata (nature natured). the refusal to be self-reﬂexive. in a section titled “The Pope versus the Dalai Lama. In the 1827 lectures. too. will include a short rejoinder by Hart to the reply by Žižek that follows here. 3. “Ontological difference” refers. 676–77). If this is correct. Imperial/Colonial Model of Religion tenacious and productive discourses of imperial/colonial modernity. to be tickled. nothingness from which being emerges. to the difference between being and the Being of being. in which case. anyone. I intend to move the reader toward a similar assessment. Hegel places ancient Roman religion higher than Judaism. 32–33) “know[s] very well how things really are. Nor am I merely saying that Žižek knows as little about Buddhist scholarship as he does about biblical scholarship. that is.” Now the point here isn’t merely that Lacanians can be Orientalist. In contrast. emptiness. the void. He is not ticklish/reﬂexive where being ticklish is a good thing. In employing them (or the term colonial modernity). I use these words as deprecations.
at least in this case. This includes Europe’s American and Australian diaspora. Mediterranean. not the least of which would be why ancient Greece was necessarily European as opposed to. and why we should assume that Europe’s others are eccentric and nonconstitutive of European identity. which it haunts. then why should we expect more from multiculturalists? Given the discursive constraints of a deeply ingrained culture of liberalism. In his effort to put Paul to work. according to Žižek 1989. Marxist-communist discourse of Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri (2000) succumbs to the siren songs of human rights liberalism in its constructive proposals. And this overlooked. 5. 9. They know very well how things really are. say.” . I can barely resist pursuing these matters. On this point. is inadequate. I have already suggested that Žižek’s critique of multiculturalism. In fairness. 32–33). I assume that his commentary should be understood as that of the intelligent. perhaps multiculturalists express radical. 8. “but the illusion that is structuring their reality.576 Nepantla 4. subversive. while insightful. as Žižek himself argues in a 2001 Süddeutsche Zeitung review of Empire. but I will. While there is no absolute distinction between metaphysics and politics. and revolutionary desires within the constraints of the only language they know. Žižek’s account strengthens Yovel’s by pointing out this very inconsistency. 11. It is metacommentary on the ordinary discourse of the religious community and not an effort to engage biblical scholars on their terrain of expertise. Žižek relies heavily on Alain Badiou’s interpretation in Saint Paul ou la naissance de l’universalisme (1998). Thus the murder of Moses and his true identity as an Egyptian are the (repressed) obscene and monstrous underside of the Mosaic Law. their real social activity. Žižek is no biblical scholar and neither am I. if Jacques Derrida’s Specters of Marx (1994) concludes with a set of liberal proposals. effective relationship to reality. the even more radical. is more interested in the former than in the latter. It isn’t reality that people misrecognize. If Michel Foucault moves toward liberal notions of the self in his later work. unconscious illusion is what may be called the ideological fantasy. nonbibilical scholar. many questions could be asked. 7. but still they are doing it as if they did not know. why would Žižek be so coy? 10. The illusion is therefore double: it consists in overlooking the illusion which is structuring our real. 6. Žižek cites Freud’s Moses and Monotheism (1983 ) to illustrate this logic. Žižek. if. Should we take “fundamentalism” as an oblique reference to Islam? If so.
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