The Subjective Turn in Zizek

July 24, 2011

As a Hegelian, Zizek might be expected to endorse the situation of the end of subjectivity in the absolute self-identication of subject and object, the real as the self. In fact, like Badiou, he turns away from Hegel's result in a repositing of the revolutionary subject. In both cases there appears to be a sense that to sublate metaphysical, reexive self-consciousness in the experience of the reality of the self is to give up the possibility of political struggle. Zizek's rejection of Gelassenheit appears to be founded on the same interpretation of the perspective vom Ereignis as a passive giving up of any challenge to the current order. The site of this giving up, struggle itself as the point of the revolutionary subject, is problematic given Zizek's formulation of capitalism as the already realized 'permanent revolution'. Struggle, as the struggle of the revolutionary subject, could only add to the energy of expansion inherent in the 'permanent revolution' of capitalism. Struggle itself, then, has to contain the contradiction as capitalism itself.


Neither Heidegger's later work nor his earlier is not about 'peaceful passivity'. When discussing, early on, the polis of the Greeks, Heidegger specically discussed the cruelty that underlay the polis as part of its necessary preconditions:
If people today from time to time are going to busy themselves rather too eagerly with the polis of the Greeks, they should not suppress this side of it; otherwise the concept of the polis easily becomes innocuous and sentimental.What is higher in rank is what is stronger.Thus Being, logos, as the gathered harmony, is not easily available for every man at the same price, but is concealed, as opposed to that harmony which is always mere equalizing, the elimination of tension, leveling.

Heidegger's Gelassenheit does subvert the notion of struggle, though, in favour of the notion of . Strife is inherent, for Heidegger, in



such notions as the fourfold. What dierentiates strife from struggle, such that struggle contains the same contradiction that sustains the capitalist permanent revolution itself, while strife does not? Hegel posited the logic of identity and dierence, the foundation of metaphysical logic, as the inherent contradiction within metaphysical logic. If struggle as the telos of the revolutionary subject, capitalism as the logic of permanent revolution, and technology as the logic of revealing through equivalence exhibit this precise contradiction this shouldn't surprise, given their common foundation in that logic. If we take as an example of strife, the inherent conict between a culture that does not accept the validity of other cultures, and any neighbouring culture, we can pick out what distinguishes strife from struggle. The antagonistic culture doesn't claim the right to not accept other cultures' validity . It simply asserts the claim because that's the way it sees things. The neighbouring culture asserts its right to defend itself because it is being attacked, not because it has the from the antagonistic culture. In the case of struggle, however, it is precisely the dierence that is defended rather than the actuality. Looking at the above situation from the perspective of struggle, the right of every society is posited, rather than the right to be . The inherent contradiction becomes apparent in the question of whether a society whose dierence consists in not accepting others' dierences has the right to that dierence.

because it is dierent

right to be dierent

to be dierent


The revolutionary subject, as the permanent subject of subjective permanent revolution, cannot be posited as free. As Zizek himself points out, beginning from a discussion of the Amish tradition of Rumspringa
In order for them to have a genuinely free choice, they would have to be properly informed about all their options, edu- cated in themthe only way to do this, however,would be to extricate them from their embeddedness in the Amish community, that is, in eect, to make them English.This also clearly demonstrates the limitations of the standard liberal attitude toward Muslim women wearing the veil: they can do it if it is their free choice, not an option imposed on them by their husbands or family.The moment women wear the veil as a result of their free individual choice (say, in order to express their own spirituality), however, the meaning of wearing the veil changes completely: it is no longer a sign of their belonging to the Muslim community, but an expression of their idiosyncratic individuality;


The freedom of free choice, however, only comes about reexively, when the subject is aware of and his initial choices, owning them even though those initial choices could not help but be conditioned choices. This is possible because the subject, as invental, is not the same subject that made those initial choices, but a new posit of the same self. In accepting responsibility despite conditioning, the self can posit a new subject in response to a new event requiring decision, one that is able to make a free choice as a result of the self 's concerning his conditioning, his inheritance from his tradition.


own judgement