Printer Friendly

Betting on ressentiment: Zizek with Nietzsche.

Nietzsche is not Zizek's philosopher of choice. Zizek has, in passing, expressed his dislike of Nietzsche (2001b), preferring, of course, the masterful thinker of mediation and the dialectic--Hegel. Yet one gets the impression that it is really Nietzsche's celebrated proto-postmodernist status that transforms him into a suspicious philosopher in Zizek's eyes. But what exactly is it about Nietzsche that the postmodernists find so attractive and that Zizek finds so offensive? Is it Nietzsche's playful undermining of truth, his deep skepticism about the philosophical project of defining and understanding the world? Is his doctrine of perspectivism all too amenable to postmodern epistemology? Take for example Foucault's Nietzschean claim that "truth is a thing of this world" (1980, 131). Or as Nietzsche himself puts it: "only that which has no history is definable" (1989, II, 13). On the whole, Zizek finds such a pursuit of endless interpretation politically dubious. Postmodernism, despite its purported iconoclasm, has not weakened capitalism's global hegemony. On the contrary, postmodernism, as Zizek and others have argued, (1) has in fact been complicit with the expansion of late capitalism. What is allegedly needed is not postmodern skepticism a la Nietzsche but a more robust mode of critique, one that can effectively break the ideological spell of our contemporary cynical condition. In the following essay, I want to turn to Zizek's limited but nevertheless suggestive use of an "other" Nietzsche in his 2008 book Violence. I will focus in particular on Zizek's appropriation of Nietzsche's well-known notion of ressentiment, evaluating its interpretive function in Zizek's ideological critique of violence.

In Violence: Six Sideways Reflections, Zizek proposes nothing short of a reconceptualization of the problematic of violence. What is typically perceived as violence today is what Zizek calls "subjective violence": it is the violence that is "performed by a clearly identifiable agent ... [and]... is seen as a perturbation of the 'normal,' peaceful state of things" (2008, 1-2). As a necessary philosophical supplement to our understanding of violence, Zizek adds "objective violence," which he then divides into, first, "symbolic violence" (the violence of racist rhetoric, for example, or, more generally, language as the hegemonic imposition of a given universe of meaning) and second, "systemic violence" (such as the violence of capitalism--the view of capitalism as a naturalized, oppressive, impersonal, smooth-functioning socio-political reality). "Objective violence is invisible," Zizek maintains, "since it sustains the very zero-level standard against which we perceive something as subjectively violent" (2). A serious account of objective violence would thus not simply complement a critique of subjective violence but demonstrate how a concern for subjective violence, in effect, helps to sustain the existence of this more insidious form of violence.

Whereas humanists and liberals typically advocate the cultivation of empathic imaginings, Zizek enjoins his readers to resist the ideological pull of subjective violence: "My underlying premise is that there is something inherently mystifying in a direct confrontation with [violence]: the overpowering horror of violent acts and empathy with the victims inexorably function as a lure which prevents us from thinking" (3-4). To think critically about violence is to think about it obliquely, to look at violence awry, that is, to look at violence from a multiplicity of incommensurable perspectives. (2)

Zizek puts the notion of Nietzschean ressentiment in the service of this interpretive task. Briefly, to recall, the men of ressentiment, "these cellar rodents full of vengefulness and hatred" (1989, I, 14) as Nietzsche cruelly describes them in On the Genealogy of Morals, are responsible for the slave revolt in morality, for the reversal and perversion of the original meaning of good and bad. They violently imposed on the ancient opposition of good and bad a moral interpretation, creating, in turn, a new mode of valuation: what was previously "good," in a non-moral sense, now becomes "evil" and what was previously "bad" becomes morally "good." (3 Zizek locates and makes visible the bitter feeling of ressentiment in today's religious fundamentalists. In the subsection "Terrorist Resentment," he submits the identity of terrorist fundamentalist to an arguably standard Nietzschean critique, undoing received knowledge of what "fundamental terrorism" means when he asks: "Are the terrorist fundamentalists, be they Christian or Muslim, really fundamentalists in the authentic sense of the term? Do they really believe? What they lack is a feature that is easy to discern in all authentic fundamentalists, from Tibetan Buddhists to the Amish in the U.S.: the absence of resentment and envy, the deep indifference towards the non-believers' way of life" (Zizek 2008, 85). The real problem of Islamic fundamentalists, he continues, is that they are not fundamentalist or "racist" enough: "The problem is not cultural difference (their effort to preserve their identity), but the opposite fact that the fundamentalists are already like us, that secretly they have already internalised our standards and measure themselves by them" (86). Like Nietzsche, Zizek moves here from symptoms to causes, enlarging the scope of his analysis. The problem is not difference (a clash of civilizations) but a larger illness that plagues Western multiculturalism as much as Islamic fundamentalism: human desire. "The problem with human desire," Zizek argues, "is that ... it is always 'desire for the Other' in all the senses of the term: desire for the Other, desire to be desired by the Other, and especially desire for what the Other desires. This last makes envy, which includes resentment, constitutive components of human desire" (87; my emphasis). An evaluation of violence must take as its point of departure the logic of desire.

The vicissitudes of desire are frequently bracketed or put aside in liberal proposals for social justice. Along with the defense of pluralism--the call to respect cultural difference--one readily finds the demand for equality. Yet the notion of egalitarianism in contemporary doxa masks a lingering, gnawing, festering element: envy of the Other's Jouissance. Arguing that when I appeal to the lofty ideal of equality what I am really saying is that "everyone's access to jouissance is equal" (89), Zizek exposes the ideological underpinnings of egalitarianism: "Here is why egalitarianism itself should never be accepted at its face value: the notion (and practice) of egalitarian justice, insofar as it is sustained by envy, relies on the inversion of the standard renunciation accomplished to benefit others: 'I am ready to renounce it, so that others will (also) NOT (be able to) have it!'" (92). The logic of envy inverts the subject's libidinal investment, shifting it from the object to the obstacle. The obsession with the Other, with the Other's enjoyment, displaces a care for my own enjoyment, transforming, in terms Zizek borrows from Rousseau, my natural amour de soi (a self-love that posits the self as its ultimate goal--finding satisfaction in the sells well-being) into a perverted amour-propre (one that aims at the destruction of any obstacle to its goal--finding satisfaction in the suffering of others) (91). Indeed, I care more about the obstacle (others) than the thing itself (what others and I enjoy). Thus the traditional story of self-sacrifice gets a perverted twist. I do not sacrifice my own interests for a greater (positive) good, but for the sheer purpose of undermining the Other's imagined enjoyment--even if this involves sabotaging my own self-interest.

Yet this is not Zizek's last word on egalitarianism, Far from seeing it as a conceptual dead end, a hopeless cause for the Left, Zizek maintains the need to truly think the language of egalitarianism in the age of global capitalism. Radical solidarity must break free from its current ideological framing. Toward that end, Zizek returns to the Nietzschean concept of ressentiment, but this time gives it an unexpected--un-Nietzschean--twist. Rather than associating ressentiment with the reactive and vindictive morality of the weak, Zizek moves to rehabilitate its meaning by introducing the paradoxical notion of "authentic resentment" (190). In its authentic form, resentment no longer signifies spiritual sickness but points to an active ethico-political resistance to a given ideological hermeneutics. Zizek's example is that of Holocaust survivor Jean Amery. Pace Nietzsche, Amery's ressentiment does not reflect a sense of inferiority nor is it the by-product of envy; rather, it emerges first and foremost as an ethical response to an unacceptable status quo. In his anachronistic stance, writing in the 1960's, when German culture was actively promoting forgiving and forgetting, Amery insisted on the need for justice, for "nailing the criminal to his deed" (1980, 72). He stubbornly declined his culture's psychically violent demands for cheap and lazy forgiveness (Amery 1980, 72). Authentic resentment (the feeling of the wronged subject) stands, then, for "a refusal to 'normalise' the crime, to make it part of the ordinary/ explicable/accountable flow of things, to integrate it into a consistent and meaningful life-narrative; after all possible explanations, it returns with its question: 'Yes, I got all this, but nevertheless, how could you have done it? Your story about it doesn't make sense!'" (Zizek 2008, 189-90). Authentic resentment-or what Zizek now dubs "a Nietzschean heroic resentment" (190)--is in the business of painful exposures and not the neat resolution of problems.

Yet how does one move from authentic ressentiment to political emancipation? In other words, why is ressentiment worth betting on? Why should we invest psychic energy into such a contested concept? We might begin answering this question by looking at Zizek's account of the 2005 Paris suburbs riots. On October 27, 2005, Ziad Benna and Bouna TraorG French youths of North African descent were electrocuted as they fled the police in the Parisian suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois. Their deaths ignited almost three weeks of rioting in the suburbs of Paris, causing damage exceeding 200 [euro] million in torched cars and buildings. (4) Not surprisingly, the riots generated a series of interpretations from liberals and conservatives alike. Liberals argued for the need for better integration of young immigrants into French culture, for an improvement of their social and economic prospects, whereas conservatives underscored the necessity to uphold law and order--to protect France's Republican universalism against the perceived "ethnic-religious revolt," in the words of Alain Finkielkraut (qtd in Zizek 77). But according to Zizek, each of the dominant readings fundamentally erred in its presuppositions, misconstruing the problem (presented in the media spectacle as subjective violence (5)), confusing symptoms for causes, and ultimately failing to attend to the Real antagonism of French society.

In dealing with the riots, Zizek first cautions against the temptation for meaning, the temptation to see in the actions of the protestors a latent political message, awaiting deciphering from the public intellectual:
   What needs to be resisted when faced with the shocking reports and
   images of the burning Paris suburbs is what I call the hermeneutic
   temptation: the search for some deeper meaning or message hidden in
   these outbursts. What is most difficult to accept is precisely the
   riots' meaninglessness: more than a form of protest, they are what
   Lacan called a passage a l'acte--an impulsive movement into action
   which can't be translated into speech or thought and carries with
   it an intolerable weight of frustration. (2008, 76)

Drawing explicitly on Lacan, Zizek insists that a passage a l'acte is not a strategic deliberation, but a blind outburst. Yet Zizek also insists, paradoxically, on the careful need to interpret this ambiguous act non act: "The fact that there was no programme behind the burning Paris suburbs is thus itself a fact to be interpreted" (2008, 75). On the one hand, Zizek maintains that the rioters' act lies outside the interpretive framework of the Symbolic Order. On the other hand, Zizek subjects the event of the riots to psychoanalytic critique (6), politicizing its non-meaning, interpreting the riots as a case of phatic communication: Hey Paris, you have a problem!

The UK riots of August 2011, sparked by the suspicious police shooting of Mark Duggan, replicated for Zizek the outbursts of frustration witnessed in Paris in 2005. As with the earlier riots, Zizek underscores their hermeneutic challenge, their irreducibility to the already known: "There was an irony in watching the sociologists, intellectuals, and commentators trying to understand and to help. Trying desperately to translate the protests back into their familiar language, they only succeeded in obfuscating the key enigma the riots represented" (Zizek 2012, 54). It is instructive to compare these passages on the riots' resistance to commentary with the one in which Zizek formulates his notion of an "authentic resentment." In all three cases, Zizek issues a hermeneutic warning: don't interpret in an expected way. In the case of the Holocaust, Amity himself warns against inscribing the crimes in a preexisting narrative that will domesticate the trauma of the Nazi concentration camps. Amery's authentic resentment short-circuits the smooth-functioning model of reconciliatory politics. With respect to the Paris and UK riots, the hermeneutic resistance comes not from the wronged subject but from the public intellectual-or rather, from one public intellectual,

Zizek, to be exact.

What Zizek is, I think, doing here with the example of the riots is setting up the possibility of authentic resentment. To be sure, the rioters, in their blind outburst, exhibited classic ressentiment, "the vengefulness of the impotent" (Nietzsche 1989, I, 10): they were reactive rather than active; their violence was not self-assertive but self-destructive. Talking about 2011 UK riots, Zizek states: "The problem with the riots was not their violence as such, but the fact that it was not truly self-assertive--in Nietzschean terms, it was reactive, not active, impotent rage and despair masked as a display of force, envy masked as a triumphant carnival" (2012, 60). Yet Zizek does not simply condemn the rioters' "unarticulated ressentiment" (2008, 75). Peter Sloterdijk serves as Zizek's strategic interlocutor in this discussion. Sloterdijk--whom Zizek unflatteringly labels a post-leftist--interprets the riots as emblematic of the rage that permeates today's culture of resentment. Sloterdijk's solution, according to Zizek, is the following: "We need to learn to live in a post-monotheist world culture, in an anti-authoritarian meritocracy which respects civilised norms and personal rights, in a balance between elitism and egalitarianism" (188). Only this view will prevent the type of irrational outbursts displayed by French youth in the 2005 riots. Zizek, too, finds the violence of the rioters problematic, blaming the system for failing to manage or develop what Sloterdijk describes as "appropriate measures of rage collection" (Sloterdijk 2010, 207), without, however, endorsing Sloterdijk's solution. Lamenting the rioters' impasse, their lack of options, Zizek writes:
   The sad fact that opposition to the system cannot articulate itself
   in the guise of a realistic alternative, or at least a meaningful
   utopian project, but only take shape of a meaningless outburst, is
   a grave illustration of our predicament. What does our celebrated
   freedom of choice serve, when the only choice is between playing by
   the rules and (self-)destructive violence? (2008, 76)

What Zizek finds even more tragic in the rioters' actions is their (lack of) effectiveness: passage ?z l'acte is precisely not a genuine act, but more often than not a sign of impotence, a failure to change the coordinates of one's social being. (7) Again, Zizek adopts a Lacanian definition of the act:
   The act differs from an active intervention (action) in that it
   radically transforms its bearer (agent): the act is not simply
   something I "accomplish"--after the act, I'm literally "not the
   same as before." In this sense, we could say that the subject
   "undergoes" the act ("passes through" it) rather than
   "accomplishes" it: in it, the subject is annihilated and
   subsequently reborn (or not); i.e., the act involves a kind of
   temporary eclipse, aphanisis, of the subject. (1992, 44)

   The act proper is the only one which re-structures the very symbolic
   co-ordinates of the agent's situation. (2001a, 85)

Reading for the Lacanian act, or distinguishing it from the passage h l'acte, is, however, not as easy or straightforward as Zizek often pretends it to be. At times, Zizek merely privileges the sheer negativity of the act, "the act as a negative gesture of saying 'No!,'" as he puts it in The Ticklish Subject (2000, 169). But aren't the Paris rioters also saying No!? Why is their recalcitrance interpreted as a mere passage h l'acte? In a similar vein, Johanna Oksala questions Zizek's one-sided interpretation of the rioters' irrationality. Against the backdrop of neoliberalism, where rational choice and cost-benefit calculations rule the day, an irrational outbursts appears meaningless only if one uncritically upholds the interpretive norms of that very same economic system:

Burning cars in rich neighbourhoods instead of poor ones would mean adopting the very political ontology one is attempting to question and transform: all human behavior should not be reduced to cost-effective means, to an end. If we want to oppose neoliberalism not just as an economic policy, but also as a socio-political matrix, we have to challenge the ontological framework that explains all human behavior through the economic analysis of its costs and effects. Some forms of behavior, such as violence, must retain an irreducibly moral and political meaning.... [T]he economic irrationality of violence does not amount to its meaninglessness, not unless we have lost all frameworks other than the neoliberal for understanding social reality. (Oksala 2011, 482)

Oksala's objections are valid to the extent that they complicate Zizek's interpretation of the riots as irrational and meaningless, raising the question of his complicity with the very system he is criticizing. Yet far from dismissing or ignoring the rioters' plight, Zizek's reading does seek first to understand and then to formulate a solution, albeit an oblique one, to their predicament. Or rather, to be more precise, what Zizek offers us is interpretive patience--the work of ideological critique-rather than easy and quick solutions. "The philosopher's task," as he insists, "is not to propose solutions, but to reformulate the problem itself, to shift the ideological framework within which we hitherto perceived the problem" (Zizek 2005). Understanding the rioters' actions as a "blind acting out" (75), "carr[ying] with it an intolerable weight of frustration" (76), recalls Simone de Beauvoir's important qualifier to the Sartrean moral category of "bad faith." As she puts it, "Every time transcendence lapses into immanence, there is degradation of existence into 'in-itself,' of freedom into facticity; this fall is a moral fault if the subject consents to it; if this fall is inflicted on the subjecL it takes the form of frustration and oppression" (Beauvoir 2010, 16; my emphasis). Facticity and immanence have been inflicted upon the rioters. Zizek intimates that social, political and economic circumstances are the real causes of their shortcomings. Neither passive victims nor autonomous rational beings, the rioters occupy an ambivalent, compromised position.

The rioters' ressentiment may not be purely slavish (the [self-]destructive violence is presumably preferable to a servile state of absolute docility), but it falls short of being authentic or heroic. A solution must begin with an acknowledgment that the rioters' refusal was not radical enough. Their violence was necessary but not sufficient for effecting genuine change in the Symbolic Order. "Their aim was to create a problem, to signal that they were a problem that could no longer be ignored. This is why violence was necessary. Had they organised a non-violent march, all they would have got was a small note on the bottom of the page..." (Zizek 2008, 77). The efficaciousness of violence is a double-edged sword, since violence is what registers in today's society and it is also what is most co-optable as a form of subjective violence by the media, which covers not the socio-economic conditions (the systemic violence) that gave rise to the problems at hand, but the scenes of destruction and transgression, such as car burnings and looting.

Looking awry at the riots enables Zizek to offer his own "belated" interpretation of the rioters' aims, which were in fact to seek greater ideological integration. The rioters were not short-circuiting the Republican ideal of egalite, libertd, fraternitY, demanding the inclusion of diversitd, for instance. Quite the contrary, they wanted to be fully recognized as citizens of France. Yet it is curious that Zizek does not pursue his reflections on the rioters' desire for full citizenship any further, since he seems well aware of the emancipatory potential of the grammar of universalism:
   Within the space of French state ideology, the term 'citizen' is
   opposed to 'indigene,' [which] suggests a primitive part of the
   population not yet mature enough to deserve full citizenship. This
   is why the protesters' demand to be recognised also implies a
   rejection of the very framework through which recognition takes
   place. It calls for the construction of a new universal framework.
   (2008, 78)

Readers have to wait some seventy pages in the same book for an account of what this new universal framework might look like. And as with the example of rioters, Zizek frames his critique in opposition to what he ironically calls "the 'radical' postcolonial critique of liberalism" (148). Analogous to the ways Zizek demystified the standard interpretation of the riots as a sign for the protesters' symbolic victimization, as a sign for French society's failure to recognize their cultural specificity, his critical assessment of the postcolonial critique of ideology lies in its one-sided Marxist lesson.

For Zizek, the postcolonial critique limits itself to resisting only false universality, to abstractions such as man as the bearer of human rights. While postcolonial critics are fully justified in denouncing the false ideological universality that masks, naturalizes and legitimizes a neocolonial condition and agenda, Zizek insists on the need to go further. At best, their intervention constitutes only half of the Marxist critique; at worst, it succumbs to a depoliticized call to respect the Other. Genuine critique requires a dialectical next step:
   It is no longer enough to make the old Marxist point about the gap
   between the ideological appearance of the universal legal form and
   the particular interests that effectively sustain it-as is so
   common among politically correct critics on the left. The
   counter-argument that the form is never a "mere" form, but involves
   a dynamic of its own which leaves traces in the materiality of
   social life.., is fully valid. (150-51)

The Left, then, must appropriate and harness the tension or ambiguity between formal democracy and the economic reality of exploitation and domination. This appearance-the experience of the gap-must be re-articulated to mean more than illusion: "The authentic moment of discovery, the breakthrough, occurs when a properly universal dimension explodes from within a particular context and.., is directly experienced as universal" (152). Zizek puts the matter in Kantian terms. In "What is Enlightenment?" Kant argued that while individuals in an official capacity have to obey orders (in the domain of the "private use of reason"), individuals must not compromise on their "public use of reason," that is, they must not relinquish their right to address their views, to speak as "a scholar.., before the entire public of the reading world" (1996, 60). The public use of reason, "in a kind of short-circuit, by-passing the mediation of the particular, directly participates in the universal," enabling the individual to be cosmopolitan, to break with the "communal-institutional order of one's particular identification" (Zizek 2008, 143).

The pursuit of concrete universality-rather than a reactionary defense of difference--is thus posited as the real alternative to ideological universality. In their desire for recognition, the rioters remained within the frame of ideological universality (a universality fully compatible with today's neoliberal capitalism). They failed--and public intellectuals for the most part failed here as well-to link their local struggle to a common struggle. What they needed was solidarity in their resistance, recognition of the antagonism between the Included and the Excluded that cuts across capitalist societies: "The conflict that sustains the riots is thus not simply a conflict between different parts of society; it is, at its most radical, a conflict between non-society and society, between those who have nothing to lose and those who have everything to lose, between those without a stake in their community and those whose stakes are the greatest" (Zizek 2012, 60).8

By way of conclusion, if Zizek is arguably more at home in his dialectical account of universality, his Nietzschean excursions reveal the ways in which ressentiment's negativity-in the subject's refusal to be domesticated and pacified--might be said to counter the impulse to act too quickly. As he says in the end of his book, "Sometimes doing nothing is the most violent thing to do" (2008, 217). Conversely, authentic ressentiment complicates a straightforward interpretation of subversive passivity as well. Authentic resentment might very well be an alternative, and arguably more desirable, mode of resistance to any absolute withdrawal from the political arena, of the sort that embraces, as it were, the passive refusal of Herman Melville's Bartleby, epitomized by his "I would prefer not to" (Zizek 2006b, 381-85).

Isn't what is needed today precisely a collective response rather than an individual-though enigmatic-one? (9) Is a kind of Kantian-Nietzschean hybrid, a "public use of ressentiment" for the (potentially) Excluded not a politically preferable option? (10) Zizekian ressentiment, staged as the uncompromising feeling for social justice against the backdrop of Left-liberal reformists (who promote the fantasy of action, of "capitalism with a human face," of forgiving and forgetting the evils of global capitalism (11)), becomes, most importantly, a collective moral feeling, based on a shared but unacceptable condition of exclusion. In actively by-passing the mediation afforded by their particular context (in resisting both the unproductive and self-destructive outbursts of violence and the myopic identification with one's ethnic roots), society's marginalized figures can come to participate effectively in the collective emancipatory struggle for the universal-for a politics of ressentiment is universal or it is not.


Amery, Jean. At the Mind's Limits: Contemplations by a Survivor on Auschwitz and its Realities. Trans. Sidney Rosenfeld and Stella P. Rosenfeld. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1980.

Badiou, Alain. The Communist Hypothesis. New York: Verso, 2010.

Beauvoir, Simone de. The Second Sex. Trans. Constance Borde and Sheila Malovany-Chevallier. New York: Alfred Knopf, 2010.

Dean, Jodi. 2izek's Politics. New York: Routledge, 2006.

Foucault, Michel. Pozoer/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings, 1972-1977. Ed. Colin Gordon. New York: Pantheon Books, 1980.

Hallward, Peter. Absolutely Postcolonial: Writing Between the Singular and the Specific. New York: Palgrave, 2001.

Hardt, Michael and Antonio Negri. Empire. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 2000.

Jameson, Fredric. Postmodernism; Or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism. Durham: Duke UP, 1991.

Kant, Immanuel. "An Answer to the Question: What Is Enlightenment?" What Is Enlightenment? Eighteenth-Century Answers and Twentieth-Century Questions. Ed. James Schmidt. Berkeley: U of California P, 1996.58-64.

Nietzsche, Friedrich. On the Genealogy of Morals. Trans. Walter Kaufmann. New York: Vintage, 1989.

Twilight of tire htols. Trans. Walter Kaufmann. In The Portable Nietzsche. New York: Viking, 1954.

Oksala, Johanna. "Violence and Neoliberal Governmentality." Constellations 18.3 (2011): 474-86.

Pluth, Ed. Signifiers and Acts: Freedom in Lacan's Theory of tlre Subject. New York: SUNY, 2007.

Sloterdijk, Peter. Rage and Time: A Psychopolitical Investigation. Trans. Mario Wenning. New York: Columbia UP, 2010.

Taylor, Paul A. Zizek and the Media. Cambridge: Polity, 2010.

Vighi, Fabio. On Zizek's Dialectics: Surplus, Subtraction, Sublimation. New York: Continuum, 2010.

Zizek, Slavoj. Enjoy Your Symptom!: Jacques Lacan in Hollywood and Out. New York: Routledge, 1992.

--. First As Tragedy, Then As Farce. New York: Verso, 2009.

--. In Defense of Lost Causes. New York: Verso, 2006a.

--. The Indivisible Remainder: On Schelling and Related Matters. New York: Verso, 2007.

--. On Belief. London: Routledge. 2001a.

--. "The one measure of true love is: you can insult the other." Spiked (15 Nov. 2001b): n.p. The Parallax View. Cambridge: The MIT P, 2006b.

--. Revolution at the Gates: Selected Writings of Lenin from 1917. New York: Verso, 2002.

--. "Some Politically Incorrect Reflections on Violence in France & Related Matters." (2005): n.p.

--. The Ticklish Subject. London: Verso, 2000.

--. Violence. New York: Picador, 2008.

--. The Year of Dreaming Dangerously. New York: Verso, 2012.

(1) See, among others, Jameson (1991), Hardt and Negri (2000), Hallward (2001), and Badiou (2010).

(2) Zizek's focus on interpretation calls for rewriting Marx's 11th thesis on Feuerbach ("The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is, to change it"): "I am therefore tempted to reverse Marx's Thesis 11: the first task today is precisely not to succumb to the temptation to act, to intervene directly and change things" (Zizek 2002,170).

(3) "There are altogether no moral facts. ... Morality is merely an interpretation of certain phenomena---more precisely, a misinterpretation" (Nietzsche 1954, VII, 1).

(4) See, a website devoted to the 2005 Paris riots.

(5) As Paul A. Taylor insightfully observes: "The media is symbolically most violent when it presents itself as a neutral conduit for reporting actual physical violence like the banlieues riots. That explicit subjective violence is presented with a misleading sense of urgency. Misleading because the very urgency with which you the viewer/listener are asked to respond is the very thing that will prevent you from recognizing the causes (objective violence) of the scenario you are witnessing" (Taylor 2010, 179).

(6) Zizek conceives of psychoanalysis as an unruly practice, one that is especially hostile to hermeneutics and thus well-suited for "interpreting" the riots: "The main ethical injunction of psychoanalysis is... not to yield to the temptation of symbolization/internalization" (2007, 94-95).

(7) In Lacanian terms, we could say that the rioters as subjects were not "entirely transformed by the act" (qtd. in Pluth 102).

(8) See also Zizek (2006a, 428).

(9) Bartleby's "I would prefer not to" entails subjective destitution, a radical substraction from every aspect of the Symbolic Order: "Today, 'I would prefer not to' is not primarily 'I would prefer not to participate in the market economy, in capitalist competition and profiteering,' but-much more problematically for some--'I would prefer not to give to charity to support a Black orphan in Africa, engage in the struggle to prevent oil-drilling in a wildlife swamp, send books to educate our liberal-feminist-spirited women in Afghanistan. ...'" (Zizek 2006b, 383). See Vighi (2010, 179n4) and Dean (2006, 130-31).

(10) "The ethico-political challenge is to recognize ourselves in this figure [a 'substanceless subjectivity']--in a way, we are all excluded, from nature as well as from our symbolic substance. Today, we are all potentially a homo sacer, and the only way to stop that from becoming a reality is to act preventively" (Zizek 2009, 92).

(11) Against this immoral pragmatism, we should not be duped into believing that the problem lies in greedy or corrupt CEOs-the problem is rather the system itself, Main Street's utter dependence on Wall Street (Zizek 2012, 77-78). And on the neo-con side of capitalism, we should be authentically resentful of the Bush-Cheney era of torture, as well as the Obama administration, which, in its refusal to prosecute war crimes and its failure to close down Guantanamo, shamelessly promoted its own troubled version of forgiving and forgetting.


COPYRIGHT 2012 University of Nebraska Press
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2012 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:Slavoj Zizek and Friedrich Nietzsche
Author:Zalloua, Zahi
Article Type:Essay
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2012
Previous Article:Revisiting violence and life in the early work of Jacques Derrida.
Next Article:Critique of charismatic violence.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2019 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters