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UFPPC ( Digging Deeper CLII: March 14, 2011, 7:00 p.m.

Slavoj Zizek, Violence: Six Sideways Reflections (New York: Picador, 2008).

[Thesis. It is a mystification to condemn Ch. 3: "A Blood-Dimmed Tide Is
all violence as "bad"; violence is in fact Loosed." The French suburban riots of
"distributed between acts and their 2005 were a "zero-level protest, a violent
contexts, between activity and inactivity" outburst which wanted nothing," a phatic
(213).] expression whose purpose was to "check
whether the channel was working" (81;
Introduction: The Tyrant's Bloody 79; 74-84). "Science and religion have
Robe. "Subjective violence" always changed places: today, science provides
exists with a backdrop of less obvious the security religion once guaranteed. In
"objective violence" (1-2). We should a curious inversion, religion is one of the
refuse to be stampeded into action by possible places from which one can
the fake urgency of "subjective" violence deploy critical doubts about today's
(3-8). society" (82). Deep down, today's
"fundamentalists" don't really believe;
Ch. 1: SOS Violence. There is their rage is really fueled by envy (82-
"something suspicious" about the focus 92). Reporting on Katrina illustrated
on "subjective violence" (9-11). Marx "what one can call lying in the guise of
gave a "new shape" to "the fundamental truth: even if what I am saying is
systemic violence of capitalism" (12-15). factually true, the motives that make me
Satirical remarks about "liberal say it are false" (100; 92-104).
communists" (Bill Gates, George Soros,
etc.) (15-24). Illustrations from film (25- Ch. 4: Antinomies of Tolerant
29). In the atonal world described by Reason. Reflections on religious
Alain Badiou, sex has replaced love (30- violence, with a focus on Israel-Palestine
36). "[L]iberal communists are the (105-39).
enemy of every progressive struggle
today" (37). Ch. 5: Tolerance as an Ideological
Category. That intolerance rather than
Ch. 2: Fear They Neighbor as injustice is regarded as a source or
Thyself! "Today's predominant mode of problems is due to "the failure of direct
politics is post-political bio-politics," political solutions such as the Welfare
which mobilizes people with fear (40). State or various socialist projects" (140).
Fear of the other, even in an age of Culture is the source of barbarism (141).
supposed tolerance, is facilitated by Particularity and universality exist in a
invoking "the right not to be harassed" dialectical relation denied by Kantian
(41). This makes it possible for those ethics (141-58). It is a dirty secret that
calling for respect for the Other to justify our identity formation is often based on
torture (42-46). The stories of these distinctions imposed and enforced by
others are occulted because there is a violence (158-77).
"fear of the over-proximity of the Other
as subject of desire" (58; 46-58, with Ch. 6: Divine Violence. "'Divine
reference to Lacan). Language enhances violence' stands for . . . brutal intrusions
the human capacity for violence because of justice beyond law" (178). People are
"[i]t dismembers a thing, destroying its afraid of losing "their transcendent God"
organic unity" (61; 58-73). (185; 179-85). German philosopher Peter
Sloterdijk wants intellectuals to give up
resentment (185-96). Walter Benjamin
posited as necessary a "domain of pure theory, and writes on broad philosophical
divine violence which is the domain of and contemporary themes from these
sovereignty . . . Divine violence is an perspectives. Of these influences, Lacan
expression of pure drive, of the is of greatest importance to Zizek. He
undeadness, the excess of life, which was a member of the Communist Party of
strikes at 'bare life' regulated by law" Slovenia until 1988, when he resigned as
(198; 196-205). "[Y]ou need to love with part of a mass protest of intellectuals
hatred" (204). against a political trial of intellectual
dissidents; he joined the campaign for
Epilogue: Adagio. "The circle of our democracy that led to the founding of an
investigation is thus closed: we have independent Slovenia. His first book
travelled from the rejection of false anti- published in English was The Sublime
violence to the endorsement of Object of Ideology (1989). Critiquing
emancipatory violence" (206). "[T]o Zizek has become a cottage industry in
chastise violence outright, to condemn it academia. Critics often complain about
as 'bad,' is an ideological operation par his intellectual volatility, for he changes
excellence, a mystification which his position frequently, but Zizek says his
collaborates in rendering invisible the is role is to challenge ideological
fundamental forms of social violence" presuppositions, not to explain the world.
(206). It is "difficult to be really violent" Known for his oratory, he speaks
(207; 207-13). "[V]iolence is not a direct Slovene, Serbo-Croatian, English, French,
property of some acts, but is distributed and German fluently. Zizek has been
between acts and their contexts, married twice. He is the subject of the
between activity and inactivity" (213; 2005 documentary "Žižek!" (2005).]
213-17). "Sometimes doing nothing is
the most violent thing to do" (217 [final [Critique. The clownish Zizek is a very
sentence]). self-indulgent philosopher, presenting his
mental coruscations as though they were
Notes. 16 pp. arguments. But they rarely are. Zizek is
always telling us what we "need to ask
Index. 22 pp. ourselves" or what something "brings to
mind." He offhandedly peppers his
About the Author. Slavoj Žižek conversational prose with notions from
teaches at the Univ. of Ljubljana, continental philosophers (Lacan, Hegel,
Slovenia, and is the author of more than Badiou, Freud, Marx, Derrida, etc.)
thirty books. supposedly "knew well," but which he
never really tries to elucidate, usually in
[Additional information. Slavoj Zizek the context of some discussion of current
or, as it his name is properly spelled, events or popular media (especially film).
Žižek, was born on Mar. 21, 1949 in — Zizek is attracted to the hyperbolic
Ljubljana, Slovenia, into middle-class (he repeats the phrase "the burning Paris
family. He holds a Ph.D. from the Univ. suburbs" [75, 76] but no suburbs burned,
of Ljubljana and studied psychoanalysis only some cars and a few buildings;
at the Univ. of Paris VIII. He has Muslims don't use toilet paper because of
established himself as a leading anti- "the Muslim belief in the sacred status of
postmodernist continental philosopher writing" [106]). He does not quote
and his work has already spawned an accurately: Augustine did not say "Love
International Journal of Žižek Studies. He God and do as you please" but rather
is a continental philosopher interested in "Love and do as you please" (136). —
Hegelian and Marxist political theory, Occasionally Zizek expresses what seem
Lacanian psychoanalysis, and film to be brilliant insights, like the notion
that in contemporary society science and transformation of something into its
religion have exchanged roles (providing opposite. — It is probably true that most
security and expresing doubt). But when read Zizek for entertainment rather than
examined closely, as here and as in the for enlightenment—a concept in which he
book's final sentence, these are usually does not particularly believe.]
based on a Hegelian trick: the