INFLUENCES The three main influences on Slavoj Zizek's work are G.W.F.

Hegel, Karl Marx and Jacques Lacan 1. Hegel provides Zizek with the type of thought or methodology that he uses. This kind of thinking is called dialectical. In Zizek's reading of Hegel, the dialectic is never finally resolved. 2. Marx is the inspiration behind Zizek's work, for what he is trying to do is to contribute to the Marxist tradition of thought, specifically that of a critique of ideology. 3. Lacan provides Zizek with the framework and terminology for his analyses. Of particular importance are Lacan's three registers of the Imaginary, the Symbolic and the Real. Zizek locates the subject at the interface of the Symbolic and the Real. The Imaginary The basis of the imaginary order is the formation of the ego in the "mirror stage". Since the ego is formed by identifying with the counterpart or specular image, "identification" is an important aspect of the imaginary. The relationship whereby the ego is constituted by identification is a locus of "alienation", which is another feature of the imaginary, and is fundamentally narcissistic. The imaginary, a realm of surface appearances which are deceptive, is structured by the symbolic order. It also involves a linguistic dimension: whereas the signifier is the foundation of the symbolic, the "signified" and "signification" belong to the imaginary. Thus language has both symbolic and imaginary aspects. Based on the specular image, the imaginary is rooted in the subject's relationship to the body (the image of the body). The Symbolic Although an essentially linguistic dimension, Lacan does not simply equate the symbolic with language, since the latter is involved also in the imaginary and the real. The symbolic dimension of language is that of the signifier, in which elements have no positive existence but are constituted by virtue of their mutual differences. It is the realm of radical alterity: the Other. The

Zizek proposes that the cogito is an empty space." Thus the real emerges as that which is outside language: "it is that which resists symbolization absolutely. there is no absence in the real. The latter is where the subject is given an identity and where that identity is altered by the Self. Unlike the latter. However. The symbolic is both the "pleasure principle" that regulates the distance from das Ding." This register is determinant of subjectivity.unconscious is the discourse of the Other and thus belongs to the symbolic order. This character of impossibility and resistance to symbolization lends the real its traumatic quality. impossible to integrate into the symbolic order. for Lacan the symbolic is characterized by the absence of any fixed relations between signifier and signified." The real is impossible because it is impossible to imagine." in the process of signification: "it is the world of words that creates the world of things. whereas most thinkers read the cogito as a substantial. The Real This order is not only opposed to the imaginary but is also located beyond the symbolic. transperent and fully self-conscious "I" which is in complete command of its destiny. Zizek argues that Descartes' cogito is the basis of the subject. the real is in itself undifferentiated: "it is without fissure". The Symbolic Order is what substitutes for the loss of the immediacy of the world and it is where the void of the subject is filled in by the process of subjectivization." If the symbolic is a set of differentiated signifiers. Reading Schelling via Lacan . Its is also the realm of the Law that regulates desire in the Oedipus complex. what is left when the rest of the world is expelled from itself. The symbolic opposition between "presence" and "absence" implies the possibility that something may be missing from the symbolic. THE SUBJECT Unlike almost all other kinds of contemporary philosophers. which is constituted in terms of oppositions such as "presence" and "absence". The symbolic introduces "a cut in the real. the real is "always in its place: it carries it glued to its heel. ignorant of what might exile it from there. and the "death drive" which goes beyond the pleasure principle by means of repetition: "the death drive is only the mask of the symbolic order.

we are taught that German idealism believes that the truth of something could be found in itself. At its most basic.. I posit my unity . The meaning of a word. can never be found in the word itself. The reason that Lacan occupies a privileged position for Zizek's lies in Lacan's proposition that self-identity is impossible. How. or a bit left-over which means that it cannot be self-identical. Our selves are somewhere else in the Symbolic formations which always precede us and in the Real which we have to disavow if we are to enter the Symbolic order. This is so because "the core of my entire work is the endeavour to use Lacan as a privileged intellectual tool to reactualize German idealism". the Beginning is not actually the beginning at all .e. he "coagulates" the core of his being in an external sign. I . (The Zizek Reader) The reason Zizek thinks German idealism (the work of Hegel. For Zizek. the Symbolic and the Real are grasped. The identity of something. This principle of the impossibility of self-identity is what informs Zizek's reading of the German idealists.Once the Lacanian concepts of the Imaginary. its meaning therefore is not selfidentical. In the (verbal) sign. Fichte and Schelling) needs reactualizing is that we are thought to understand it in one way. because who we truly are is always elsewhere.that is.. The term "reactualizing" refers to the fact that there are different possible ways to interpret German idealism. rather than being buried deep within us. Kant. Zizek. We cannot look into our selves and find out who we truly are. in pronouncing a word. how does it mediate the antagonism between the contarctive and the expansive force? The Word is a contraction in the guise of its very opposite of an expansion . its singularity or "oneness". whereas the truth of it is something else.find myself outside myself. In reading Schelling. but rather in other words. it is split or not identical to itself. and indivisible remainder. There is always too much of something. in the Symbolic and the Real. and Zizek wishes to make "actual" one of those possibilities in distinction to the way it is currently realized. does the Word discharge the tension of the rotary motion. the fundamental insight of German idealism is that the truth of something is always outside it. is always split. it were . So the truth of our experience lies outside ourselves. i. in philosophical writings such as his dicussion of Schelling. the subject contracts his being outside himself.the truth of the Beginning lies elsewhere.e. always interprets the work of other philsophers in terms of those concepts. precisely.

For Lacan and Zizek every word is a gravestone. it is. "the symbol manifests itself first of all as the murder of the thing". The subject can only enter language by negating the Real. What Lacan aims to disclose by rewriting the Cartesian cogito in this way is that the subject is irrevocably split. marking the absence or corpse of the thing it represents and standing in for it.outside myself. form lags behind content. Although we may experience them as unified. Zizek proposes that The passage from feudalism to Protestantism is not of the same nature as the passage from Protestantism to bourgeois everyday life with its privatized . murdering or substituting the blood-and-sinew reality of self for the concept of self expressed in words. this is merely an Imaginary illusion. "I" is not identical to itself .hence mediating . in the sense that content changes within the parameters of an existing form. (The Indivisible Remainder: An Essay on Schelling and Related Matters) The Subject of the Enunciation and the Subject of the Enunciated The subject of enunciation is the "I" who speaks. until the logic of that content works its way out to the latter and throws off its husk. therefore I am" as "I think where I am not. The "I think" here is the subject of the enunciated (the Symbolic subject) whereas the "I am" is the subject of the enunciation (the Real subject). a general term I share with everyone else. As with Marx's analysis of revolution. therefore I am where I think not". in a signifier which represents me. the individual doing the speaking. It is partly in the light of this that Lacan is able to refashion Descartes' "I think. Commenting Fredric Jameson's "Syntax of Theory" (The Ideologies of Theory. It does not account for me in my full specificity. In order to do so. my empirical reality must be annihilated or. Minnesota. as Lacan avers. torn asunder by language The Vanishing Mediator The concept of "vanishing mediator" is one that Zizek has consistenly employed since For They Know Not What They Do.the transition between two opposed concepts and thereafter disappears. revealing a new form in ots stead. A vanishing mediator is a concept which somehow negotiates and settles . the subject of the enunciated is the "I" of the is split between the individual "I" (the subject of enunciation) and the grammatical "I" (the subject of the enunciated). Zizek draws attention to the fact that a vanishing mediator is produced by an assymetry of content and form. 1988). rather. for the pronoun "I" is actually a substitute for the "I" of the subject.

the assertion of the ascetic acquisitive stance in economic activity as the domain of manifestation of Grace . Woman Lacan in Encore states that jouissance is essentially phallic: "jouissance. At the same time. (For They Know Not What They Do: Enjoyment as a Political factor) Zizek sees in this process evidence of Hegel's "negation of the negation". which means that it does not relate to the Other as such. Going beyond the phallus. it is a law that commands the subject to "enjoy as little as possible".religion. pleasure becomes pain. it is of the order of the infinite. This feminine jouissance is ineffable. was itself negated by capitalism. the third moment of the dialectic. for women experience it but know nothing about it. by seeming to strengthen itself. The term expresses the paradoxical satisfaction the subject derives from his symptom. The first negation is the mutation of the content within and in the name of the old form. something becomes the opposite of itself. is phallic. beyond this limit. The result of transgressing the pleasure principle is not more pleasure. The fisrt passage concerns "content" (under the guise of preserving the religious form or even its strengthening. and this "painful pleasure" is what Lacan calls jouissance: jouissance is suffering. that is the suffering he derives from his own satisfaction. In this way." However. since thre is only a certain amount of pleasure that the subject can bear. a jouissance of the Other. a supplementary jouissance which is beyond the phallus. a change of form (as soon as Protestantism is realized as the ascetic acquisitive stance.takes place). the subject constantly attempts to trangress the prohibitions imposed on his enjoyment. THE FORMULAS OF SEXUATION Jouissance The pleasure principle functions a a limit of enjoyment. In the case of Protestantism. whereas the second passage is a purely formal act. Which is to say that Protestantism. paradoxically. . The second negation is the obsolescence of the form itself. to go "beyond the pleasure principle". the universalization of religious attitudes ultimately led to its being sidelined as a matter of private contemplation. as a negation of feudalism. the crucial shift . insofar as it is sexual. Lacan admits a specifically feminine jouissance. but pain. it can fall off as form).

but rather two modes of the failure of Symbolization. "Woman as a symptom" (Seminar RSI) means that a woman is a symptom of a man. present society. the subject's inherent reflexivity manifests itself in attachments to forms of subjection. unlike masculinity . For Zizek. pas toute. the rule of the . who advocate the personal freedoms of choice or reflexivity. or postmodernity. For the definite article indicates universality. which Lacan rephrases as "there is no such a thing as Woman". The terms "man" and "woman" do not refer to a biological distinction or gender roles. It is this failure which means that "there is no sexual rapport". The term "the law" signifies the principles upon which society is based. Continuing the theorists of the contemporary risk society. The Law Zizek refers to the law throughout his work. but the definite article which precedes it. or how Not to misread Lacan's formulas of sexuation for Zizek's position vis-à-vis sexuation. in these conditions.a universal function founded upon the phallic exception (castration).one that will alter the conditions of possibility of postmodernity (which he identifies as capitalism) and so give birth to a new type of Symbolic Order in which a new breed of subject can exist. in the sense that a woman can only ever enter the psychic economy of men as a fantasy object. woman is a non-universal which asmits no exception. il n'y a pas La femme. paranoia and narcissism. woman is what sustains the consistency of man. and this is the characteristic that woman lacks: "woman does not lend herself to generalisation. Zizek proposes the need for a political act or revolution . Zizek argues that these theorists ignore the reflexivity at the heart of the subject. See Woman is one of the mystical ecstasy. is based upon the demise in the authority of the big Other. designating a mode of collective conduct based upon a set of prohibitions. for Zizek. even to phallocentric generalisation. woman nonexistence actually represents the radical negativity which constitutes all subjects. In order to ameliorate these pathologies. Lacan questions not the noun "woman". which have replaced this authority. POSTMODERNITY For Zizek. la femme n'existe pas. For Zizek. lacking the prohibitions of the big Other. However." He also speaks of her as "not-all". the cause of their desire. "Woman doesn't exist".

When Zizek avers that "the big Other no longer exists" is that in the new postmodern era of reflexivity we no longer believe that the emperor is wearing clothes. when it becomes a law unto itself. in the sense that it never existed in the first place as a material thing. Instead of treating this as a case of punctuting hypocrisy.that the very community of which we were a member has disintegrated" (For They Know Not What They Do). In order to coexist with our neighbors we act "as if" they do not smell bad or look ridiculous. We believe the testimony of our eyes (his nakedness in the Real) rather than the words of the big Other (his Symbolic new clothes). The Desintegration of the Big Other One key aspect of the universalization of reflexivity is the resulting desintegration of the big Other. All it ever was (and is) is a purely symbolic order. there is a certain "outlaw". the big Other was always dead. and it reaches the limits of itself. The big Other is then a kind of collective lie to which we all individually subscribe. If the law is to function conceals an inherent unruliness which is precisely the violence by which it established itself as law in the first place. because this concealment is the positive condition of the functioning of the law. however. we must experience it as just. It means that we all engage in a minimum of idealization. Which is to say that the origin of the law can be found in the tautology: "the law is the law". Zizek argues that "we get more than we bargained for . disavowing the brute fact of the Real in favor of another Symbolic world behind it. Zizek expresses this disavowal in terms of an "as if".. There is . The illegitimate violence by which law sustains itself must be concealed at any price. do we glimpse those limits and acknowledge its contingency by reference to the phrase "the law is the law". but because it is the law. (For They Know Not What They Do: Enjoyment as a Political Factor) The authority of the law stems not from some concept of justice. a certain real of violence which coincides with the act itself of the establishment of the reign of the law. the communal network of social institutions.. "At the beginning" of the law. For Zizek. It is only when the law breaks down. We all know that the emperor is naked (in the Real) but nonetheless we agree to the deception that he is wearing new clothes (in the Symbolic). customs and laws.

by menas of this substitute formation. can appear in an entirely different light the moment the modality of his/her relationship to the big Other changes. in someone or something who is really pulling the strings of society and organizing everything. The name Lacan gives to an Other in the Real is "the Other of the Other". Needless to say that it is commonplace to argue that the dominant pathology today is paranoia: countless books and films refer to some organization which covertly control governments. behind the multiplicity of phantasmatic identities. which are fully recognized by everyone else and determine my socio-economic position. A belief in an Other of the Other. to pull ourselves out of the real "illness". it is the big Other which confers an identity upon the many decentered personalities of the contemporary subject. there is a hard core of some "real Self". for contingent reasons that have nothing to do with its inherent structure. For Zizek. the "end of the world". we are dealing with a symbolic fiction. Looking Awry: an Introduction to Jacques Lacan through Popular Culture) . The level at which this takes place is not that of "reality" as opposed to the play of my imagination . the breakdown of the symbolic universe.a demise in "Symbolic efficiency". but a fiction which. news. structures the sociosymbolic reality in which I participate. possesses performative power . The status of the same person. on the contrary. we must not forget Freud's warning and mistake it for the "ilness" itself: the paranoid construction is. we need to know that the fact is also known by the big Other is only the Self or Selves registered by the big Other which display Symbolic efficiency. markets and academia. Zizek identifies another response in the positing of a big Other that actually exists in the Real. is one of the signs of paranoia. an attempt to heal ourselves. inclusive of his/her very "real" socially operative. (The Ticklish Subject: the Absent Center of Political Ideology) The Return of the Big Other Besides the construction of little big Others as a reaction of the demise of the big Other. Symbolic efficiency refers to the way in which for a fact to become true it is not enough for us just to know it.Lacan's point is not that. Zizek proposes that the cause of this paranoia can be located in a reaction to the demise of the big Other: When faced with such a paranoid construction. The different aspects of my personality do not claim an equal status in the Symbolic .

yet at the same time believes in the existence of conspirancies and an unseen Other pulling the strings.Paradoxically. the film allows no such room for manoeuvre and the viewer is forced to accept Minghella's reading of the text. Its disappearance causes us to construct an Other of the Other in order to escape the unbearable freedom its loss encumbers us with. As such. Ripley is here objectively homosexual. but in Anthony Minghella's film Ripley is openly gay. In Patricia Highsmith's novel. This apparently contradictory coupling of cynicism and belief is strictly correlative to the demise of the big Other. What Zizek means by this can be seen in his comparative analysis of The Talented Mr. Zizek argues that the typical postmodern subject is one who displays an otright cynicism towards official institutions. Postmodernism: An Over-Proximity to the Real One of the ways in which Zizek's understanding of the postmodern can be characterized is as an over-proximity of the Real. what we lose by covering over the void in this way is the void of subjectivity: By way of "filling in the gaps" and "telling it all". we do not have to do so. For Zizek. "shows it all". So whereas in one instance the reader can decide subjectively whether or not Ripley is gay. such as the technique of "filling in the gaps". at most. Ripley (book and film). While we can interpret the clues in the story as indicating Ripley's homosexuality. Conversely. which is ultimately none other than the void of subjectivity (the Lacanian "barred subject"). then. the book remains "innocent" in the eyes of the big Other because it does not openly trangress one of its norms. is filled in. The repressed content of the novel. What Minghella accomplishes is the move from the void of subjectivity to the inner wealth of personality. equivocal. what we retreat from is the void as such. In postmodern art (or postmodernism) Zizek identifies various manifestations of this. (The Fright of Real Tears: Krzysztof Kieslowski between Theory and Post-Theory) In Highsmith's novel the status of Ripley's sexuality is. on the other hand. there is no need to take the big Other seriously if we believe in an Other of the Other. We therefore display cynicism and belief in equal and sinceres measures. we are not so much living in a post-ideological era as in an era . The film. IDEOLOGY For Zizek. Ripley's homosexuality is only indirectly proposed. the absence around which it centers.

It is "belief before belief. the meaning of which can slide about depending on the context of its use. is in itself an open-ended word. is located in what we do and not in what we know. he terms a point de capiton (literally an "upholstery button" though is has also been translated as "anchoring point"). "market economy" and so on) will be entitled to quilt the ideological field ("freedom". but twice. A point de capiton unifies an ideological field and provides it with an identity. Human rights" and son on)." Pinning Down Ideology with Points de Capiton One of the questions Zizek asks about ideology is: what keeps an ideological field of meaning consistent? Given that signifiers are unstable and liable to slippages of meaning. This does not involve the annihilation of our actual bodies. but still. rather it entails the destruction of our Symbolic universe and the extermination of our subject positions. But we can also suffer a Symbolic death. Freedom. Adapting from Marx and Sloterdijk. points to the way in which we can die not just once. This is death in the Real. such as Althusser's Ideological State Apparatuses. "fascism". What is at issue in a conflict of ideologies is precisely the point de capiton . by both a living death and a deathly life. whereas a left-wing interpretation of it might use it designate freedom from the inequalities of the market. we will suffer a biological death in which our bodies will fail and eventually disintegrate.e.which signifier ("communism". The Two Deaths The fact that for Zizek the apparently all-inclusive whole of life and death are supplemented. Zisek zrques that a point de capiton is a signifier which stops meaning from sliding about inside the ideological quilt. Ideology in this sense. Most obviously. In the same way that an upholstery button pins down stuffing inside a quilt and stops it from moving about. following lacan. "capitalism". The word "freedom" therefore does not mean the same thing in all possible worlds: what pins its meaning down is the point de capiton of "rightwing" or "left-wing". they are doing it". in their activity. they are following an illusion. We can thus suffer a living death . how does an ideology maintain its consistency? The answer to this problem is that any given ideological field is "quilted" by what. involving the obliteration of our material selves.dominated by the ideology of cynicism. i. he sums up the cynical attitude as "they know that. A right-wing interpretation of the word might use it to designate the freedom to speculate on the market. "democracy". Our belief in an ideology is thus staged in advance of our acknowledging that belief in "belief machines".

following Hamlet's killing of his murderer. The Spectre of Ideology Zizek distinguishes three moments in the narrative of an ideology. democratic elections and the free market. Zizek argues. Hamlet's father is dead in the Real.e in liberalism subjects naturally think of themselves as free individuals. the heroine suffers a SYmbolic death before her Reak death when she is excluded fom the community for wanting to bury his traitorous brother. Doctrine . In Shakespeare's Hamlet for example.where we are excluded from the Symbolic and no longer exist for the Other. liberalism partly developed from the ideas of John Locke. people remember our names. In this case. i. he is "completely" dead.e.e. the way it is experienced as spontaneous. can be filled either by manifestations of the monstrous or the beautiful. remember our deeds and so on. however. we continue to exist in the Symbolic even though we have died in the Real. Locke's arguments about government served . In Sophocles' Antigone. Ritual . we might endure a deathly life or more a kind of life after death. Belief . The gap between the two deaths. i. 2. Once that debt has been repaid.ideological ritual refers to the internalization of a doctrine. In the first stage of ideological doctrine we find ideology in its "pure" state. will not suffer a Symbolic death himself. Ironically Antigone enters the domain between the two deaths "precisely in order to prevent her brother's second death: to give him a proper funeral that will secure his eternalization" (The Ticklish Subject: the Absent Centre of Political Ontology).ideological belief designates the material or external manifestations and apparatuses of its doctrine. we still exist in the Real but not in the Symbolic. Alternatively. conceal a vested interest. in reality.ideological doctrine concerns the ideas and theories of an ideology. she endures a Symbolic death in order that her brother. after our bodies have died. This might happen if we go mad or if we commit an atrocious crime and society disowns us. These three aspects of ideology form a kind of narrative. 3. 1. liberalism is materialized in an independent press. In this scenario. That is. This destruction of her social identity instils her character with a sublime beauty. i. Here ideology takes the form of a supposedly truthful proposition or set of arguments which. This might happen if. who has been refused proper burial rites. he persists as a terifying and monstrous apparition because he was murdered and thereby cheated of the chance to settle his Symbolic debts.

the supreme example of such spontaneity is. Zizek does not claim that he can offer any access to the "objective truth of things" but that ideology must be assumed to exist if we grant that reality is structured upon a constitutive antagonism. how can we distinguish reality from ideology? From what position. concealing the gap opened up by the failure of reality (the Symbolic) to account fully for the Real. And if ideology exists we must ne able to subject it to critique. In each of these three moments . that is not a position we can actually occupy. its materialization in the form of belief and its manifestation as spontaneous ritual . we find ourselves back in ideology again. it does presuppose the existence of ideology and thus authorizes the validity of its critique. As this antagonism is part of the Real. The distinction between reality and ideology exists as a theoretical given. So. for Zizek. namely an attempt to keep the project of ideological critique alive at all in an era in which we are said to have left ideology behind. rather its effect is visible in ideological mystification.the Real of the antagonism. it is not subject to ideological mystification. .'" (Mapping Ideology) The antagonism of the Real is a constant that has to be assumed given the xistence of social reality (the Symbolic Order). ideology takes the form of the spectral supplement to reality. The only non-ideological position available is in the Real . which contrasts reality with ideology. This is the aim of Zizek's theory of ideology. for example. To solve this problem. Now. is Zizek able to denounce the New Age reading of the universe as ideological mystification? It is not from the position in reality because reality is constituted by the Symbolic and the Symbolic is where fiction assumes the guise of truth.a doctrine. ideology assumes an almost spontaneous existence. Zizek suggests that we analyze ideology using a ternary soon as we think we have assumed a position of truth from which to denounce the lie of an ideology. a successful ideology takes on the material form which generates belief in that ideology. Third. the notion of commodity fetishism.the interest of the revolutionary Americans rather than the colonizing British. In a second step. This is so because our understanding of ideology is based on a binary structure. Here. becoming instinctive rather than realized either as an explicit set of arguments or as an institution. most potently in the guise of Althusser's State Apparatuses. While this model of the structure of reality does not allow us a position from which to assume an objective viewpoint. it is rather "the extraideological point of reference that authorizes us to denounce the content of our immediate experience as 'ideological.

What is barred from the barred subject is precisely the body as the materialization or incarnation of enjoyment (jouissance). before we enter language we are what Zizek terms "pathological" subjects (the subject he notates by S). Although not all jouissance is completely evacuated by the process of signification (some of it persists in what are called the erogenous zones). in much the same way as the subject is castrated by its admission. For the subject to enter the Symbolic Order. .RACISM AND FANTASY Fantasy as a Mask of the Inconsistency in the Big Other One way at looking at the relationshipbetween fantasy and the big Other is to think of fantasy as concealing the inconssistency of the Symbolic Order. then. What fantasy does is conceal this lack or incompletion. What the fantasy of a sexual scenario thereby conceals is the impossibility of this sexual relationship. Zizek often avers that fantasy is a way for subjects to organize their jouissance . or heterogenous to. It is. What Zizek means by this is that the price we pay for our admission to the univerdal medium of language is the loss of our full body selves. the immaterial order of the signifier. after we are immersed in language we are what he refers to as "barred" subjects (the empty subject he notates with $). castrated or rendered icomplete by admitting the subject. It covers up the lack in the big Other. When we submit to the big Other we sacrifice direct access to our bodies and. So. The big Other is therefore inconsistent or structured around a lack. the lack of jouissance. And this entails that the Symbolic Order cannot fully account for jouissance . To understand this we need to know why the big Other is inconsistent or structured around a gap. So. it is is what us missing in the big Other. "there is not sexual relationship" in the big Other. In this regard. as we saw previoulsly when alluding to the formulas of sexuation. Material jouissance is strictly at odds with. The answer to this question is that when the body enters the field of signification or the big Other. the Real of jouissance or enjoyment has to be evacuated from is a way to manage or domesticate the traumatic loss of the jouissance which cannot be Symbolized. instead. the missing jouissance. we might say. whereas. most of it is not Symbolized. Which is another way to saying that the advent of the symbol entails "the murder of the thing". are condenmned to an indirect relation with it via the medium of language.

racism is now articulated in terms of a respect for another's culture. A racist will blame his socio-economic environment. Thus postmodern racists are fully able to rationalize their behavior in a way that belies the traditional image of racism as the vocation of the ignorant.. in its incosnsistency. They are what make us individuals. The Ethnic Fantasy . denying us an objective account of the world.. really wants from me. As an example of this Zizek asks "was not the official argument for apartheid in the old South Africa that black culture should be preserved in its uniqueness. Fantasies are produced as a defence against the desire of the Other manifest in "What do you want from me?" .. yet. poor childhood. Fantasies are the way in which we organize and domesticate our jouissance. whereas racism used to involve a claim that another ethnic group is inherently inferior to our own. Instead of "My culture is better than yours". 3. but is merely a victim of circumstances. So. and so on. our fantasies are extremely sensitive to the intrusion of others. in such a way as to suggest to Zizek that he cannot help being racist. what is at stake here is the fethishistic disawoval of cynicism: "I know very well that all ethnic cultures are equal in value. It is not the product of ignorance in the way it used to be. They are anamorphic in that they presuppose a point of view. The split here between the subject of enunciated ("I know very well. 4.which is what the Other. 2. allowing a subjective view of reality.The Window of Fantasy For Zizek. peer group pressure.. Postmodern Racism Zizek contends that today's racism is just as reflexive as every other part of postmodern life. not dissipated in the Western melting-pot? (The Fragile Absolute. Fantasise are the one unique thing about us. As such. I will act as if mine is superior".nevertheless I act as if I didn't") is even preserved when racists are asked to explain the reasons for their behavior. postmodern or reflexive racism will argue that "My culture is different from yours". racism is produced by a clash of fantasies rather than by a clash of symbols vying for supremacy. Fantasies provide a framework through which we see reality.") and the subject of the enunciation (". or Why the Christian Legacy is Worth Fighting For) For him. nevertheless. There are several distinguishing features of fantasy: 1.

British or Germans. his attitude to work .If "ethnic tension" is a conflict of fantasies. What both these fantasies are predicated upon is that the "other" enjoys in a different way than "us": In short. it is not just another business. The specificity of "their: fantasy conflicts with the specificity of "our" fantasy". and are supported by. The way :they" enjoy themselves is alien and unfamiliar. for what is at stake are the national cultures and politics bodies which underpin. the point of view which makes us Indians. The first type centers around the apprehension that the "ethnic other" desires our jouissance. The last two decades have witnessed a marked rise in racial tension and ethnic nationalism. his noisy songs and dances. culture and social organization. This process refers to the way in which capitalism has spread across the world. dissipating local traditions and values in favor of universal ones. The second type proceeds from an uneasiness that the "ethnic other" has access to some strange jouissance. the perception of a threat. resident industries. displaceing local companies in favor of multinational ones. what really bothers us about the "other". but represents a specifically American approach to food. by "them" as well as by "us". the more it works to dissolve the efficacy of national domains. "They" do not things like "us". we will court the risk of succumbing to a racist paranoia. for example. For Zizek. The only way to offset this increased homogeneity and to assert the worth of the particular against the global is to cling to our specific ethnic fantasy. his strange manners. The effects of this process are nor necessarily just commercial. Following Lacan and Marx. Zizek ascribes this rise to the process of globalization. remains strong. "They" want to steal our enjoyment from "us" and rob us of the specificity of our fantasy. The more capitalism spreads. When McDonald's opens up in Bombay. And if we try to avoid being dissolved in the multicultural mix of globalization by sticking to the way we organize the racist perspective. what is then the racist fantasy? For Zizek there are two basic racist fantasies. is the peculiar way he organizes his jouissance (the smell of his food. what really gets on our nerves. ( Looking Awry: an Introduction to Jacques Lacan through Popular Culture) So ethnic tension is caused by a conflict of fantasies if we regard fantasy as a way of organizing jouissance. Even if we attempt to institute a form of equality between the . the "other" is either a workaholic stealing our jobs or an idler living on our labor.

much of the world would succumb to racist violence. mitigating the worst effects of thoses fantasies. If civil society were allowed to rule unrestrained. In reality. a Muslim.ways in which we aorganize enjoyment. what this argument misses is the fact that because the subject of racism is only a fantasy figure. a Latino. the fantasy-image of society qua consistent. Zizek argues that in order to avoid a clash of fantasies we have to learn to "traverse the fantasy" (what lacan terms "traversing the fantôme). Slavoj Zizek's Bibliography . and society will be haromious again". it is only there to make us think that such a harmonious society is actually possible. be it a Jew. as Zizek points out. "fantasies cannot coexist peacefully" (Looking Awry) The Ethics of Fantasy For Zizek is the state that should act as a buffer between the fantasies of different groups. unfortunately. (Enjoy Your Symptom! Jacques Lacan in Holliwood and Out) Which is another way of saying that if the Jew qua fantasy figure was not there. In "traversing" or "going through" the fantasy "all we have to do is experience how there is nothing 'behind' it. we would have to invent it so as to maintain the illusion that we could have a perfect society. harmonious whole is rendered possible. The underlying argument of all racism is that "if only they weren't here. an African-American. and how fantasy masks precisely this 'nothing'". The fantasy racist figure is just a way of covering up the impossibility of a whole society or an organic Symbolic Order complete unto itself: What appears as the hindrance to society's full identity with itself is actually its positive condition: by transposing onto the Jew the role of the foreign body which introduces in the social organism disintegration and antagonism. society is always-already divided. In the long term. It means that we have to acknowledge that fantasy merely functions to screen the abyss or inconsistency in the Other. It is only the forces of the state which keep it in check. is a fantasy figure. (The Sublime Object of Ideology) The subject of racism. someone who embodies the void of the Other. However. ife would be perfect. For all the fantasy figure does is to embody the existing impossibility of a complete society. gay or lesbian. Chinese.

2003.Lacan. Photo credit: Kate Milford . London: thanks Tony Myers who graciously lent material from his Slavoj Zizek.

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful