Livestream: The Courage of Hopelessness von Slavoj Žižek

The Courage of Hopelessness von Slavoj Žižek

Termine: Samstag, 20. Mai, 18.30



Giorgio Agamben said in an interview that "thought is the courage of hopelessness" - an insight which is especially pertinent for our historical moment when even the most pessimist diagnostics as a rule finishes with an uplifting hint at some version of the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. The true courage is not to imagine an alternative, but to accept the consequences of the fact that there is no clearly discernible alternative: the dream of an alternative is a sign of theoretical cowardice, it functions as a fetish which prevents us to think to the end the deadlock of our predicament. In short, the true courage is to admit that the light at the end of the tunnel is most likely the headlight of another train approaching us from the opposite direction. This train appears lately in five figures: the renewed fundamentalist-terrorist threat (the declaration of war against ISIS, Boko Haram…); geopolitical tensions with and between non-European new powers (China and especially Russia); the rise of new radical emancipatory movements in Europe (Greece and Spain, for the time being); the flow of refugees crossing the Wall that separates "Us" from "Them"; the explosion of violent populism in all developed countries. It is crucial to see these threats in their interconnection – not in the sense that they are the four faces of the same Enemy, but in the sense that they express aspects of the same immanent "contradiction" of global capitalism.

Slavoj Zizek: The Courage of Hopelessness: Chronicles of a Year of Acting Dangerously

In these troubled times, even the most pessimistic diagnosis of our future ends with an uplifting hint that things might not be as bad as all that, that there is light at the end of the tunnel. Yet, argues Slavoj Žižek, it is only when we have admit to ourselves that our situation is completely hopeless - that the light at the end of the tunnel is in fact the headlight of a train approaching us from the opposite direction - that fundamental change can be brought about.

Surveying the various challenges in the world today, from mass migration and geopolitical tensions to terrorism, the explosion of rightist populism and the emergence of new radical politics - all of which, in their own way, express the impasses of global capitalism - Žižek explores whether there still remains the possibility for genuine change. Today, he proposes, the only true question is, or should be, this: do we endorse the predominant acceptance of capitalism as a fact of human nature, or does today's capitalism contain strong enough antagonisms to prevent its infinite reproduction? Can we, he asks, move beyond the failure of socialism, and beyond the current wave of populist rage, and initiate radical change before the train hits?

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Reading Žižek – Where to Start?

Full Lecture: Slavoj Zizek – ‘You have to be stupid to see that’: Ideology in Daily Life

‘You have to be stupid to see that’: Ideology in Daily Life – A Masterclass with Slavoj Zizek
Ideology as Augmented Reality

Event Date: 15 May 2017



"According to Giorgio Agamben,‘thought is the courage of hopelessness’ – an insight especially pertinent for our historical moment when even the most pessimist diagnostics finishes with an uplifting hint at the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. The true courage is not to see this mirage, not to imagine an alternative, but to accept the consequences of the fact that there is no discernible alternative: the dream of an alternative is a sign of theoretical cowardice, it functions as a fetish which prevents us to think to the end the deadlock of our predicament. The true courage is to admit that the light at the end of the tunnel is most likely the headlight of another train approaching us from the opposite direction, from ecological threat to a new world war."

Listen to Part 1 of A Masterclass with Slavoj Zizek here.


Inaugural Lecture by Slavoj Žižek: The Final Countdown: Europe in The Valley of Decision /NSK State Pavilion/

Slavoj Žižek at NSK State Pavilion – 57th Venice Biennale 2017 11 May – 15 July 2017

The Final Countdown: Europe in The Valley of Decision





NSK State in Time was founded by artist collective Neue Slovenische Kunst (NSK) in 1992, conceived as a utopian formation without physical territory and identifying with no existing nation state. The NSK State Pavilion will add a new dimension to NSK State in Time, through collaboration with migrant communities, humanitarian protection applicants and stateless individuals.
The Pavilion does not stand in opposition to the national structure of the Venice Biennale, but as an independent Pavilion, and seeks to redefine ideas of the state and proffer a new type of citizenship. It will engage with a range of issues that trouble current contemporary states—migration, citizenship, heritage and identity—and generate ideas about how to build new collectivities and shared histories across national borders beyond Europe’s current fragmentation.



Commissioned by artist collective IRWIN (Dušan Mandič, Miran Mohar, Andrej Savski, Roman Uranjek and Borut Vogelnik), the project is curated by Zdenka Badovinac and Charles Esche, and directed by Mara Ambrožič. It will involve contributions from more than 200 individuals, including citizens of NSK State in Time, artists, philosophers, students, art professionals, cultural institutions, social cooperatives, and international universities. A book and newspaper will also be launched, alongside a seminar for Visual Art MA students at the IUAV University of Venice.

NSK citizen and contemporary artist Ahmet Öğüt has been invited to shape the installation of the Pavilion, where the notion of state, and the definition of citizenship and its related bureaucracy, are questioned through the conceptual and physical experience of gravity. The space will be experienced in two parts: a room of "global disorder" including over 100 responses to a questionnaire asked by NSK Delegates about views on Europe, and an NSK passport office where passports will be issued.
The NSK State in Time Pavilion in Venice will be governable by its community, from sans-papiers to migrants and citizens. An apology for modernity forms one part of the project, written on behalf of the liberal western world to refugees, as well as those who were unable to choose not to flee. It was prepared in collaboration with the scientific consultant Tomaž Mastnak.

The NSK Pavilion is an independent project, commissioned and produced by IRWIN, co- produced by the Museum and Galleries of Ljubljana, and co-organised by Temple Productions, Paris and Društvo NSK Informativni center, Ljubljana.


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Reading Žižek – Where to Start?

Slavoj Žižek: On Corbyn, the election, Brexit and fake news

Philosopher Slavoj Zizek explains his views on the impending general election, the future of the left, the role of fake news, LGBT rights, the coming insignificance of the European Union and miracles.



Slavoj Žižek: The Courage of Hopelessness: Chronicles of a Year of Acting Dangerously


Reading Žižek – Where to Start?

“The present book addresses systematically all these critical points.”

“As expected, all of these reproaches are combined into the thesis that I am effectively a homophobic eurocentrist racist who opposes any authentic radical measure...The present book addresses systematically all these critical points.”

― Slavoj Zizek, The Courage of Hopelessness: Chronicles of a Year of Acting Dangerously


In these troubled times, even the most pessimistic diagnosis of our future ends with an uplifting hint that things might not be as bad as all that, that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Yet, argues Slavoj Žižek, it is only when we have admit to ourselves that our situation is completely hopeless - that the light at the end of the tunnel is in fact the headlight of a train approaching us from the opposite direction - that fundamental change can be brought about.


Surveying the various challenges in the world today, from mass migration and geopolitical tensions to terrorism, the explosion of rightist populism and the emergence of new radical politics - all of which, in their own way, express the impasses of global capitalism - Žižek explores whether there still remains the possibility for genuine change. Today, he proposes, the only true question is, or should be, this: do we endorse the predominant acceptance of capitalism as a fact of human nature, or does today's capitalism contain strong enough antagonisms to prevent its infinite reproduction? Can we, he asks, move beyond the failure of socialism, and beyond the current wave of populist rage, and initiate radical change before the train hits?




❥ ŽIŽEK'S LATEST BOOKS:


https://www.bookdepository.com/Against-the-Double-Blackmail/9780241278840/?a_aid=dbclub



❥ UPCOMING ŽIŽEK'S BOOKS






http://myheartwillgoonandsoonandsoon.blogspot.com/p/zizek-books.html


We are regularly updating our quotes, videos and events sections with the latest Zizek’s news, lectures and wisdoms:

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Reading Žižek – Where to Start?

Slavoj Zizek: Only a New Universalism Can Save Us from the New World Order

ABC Religion and Ethics / 11 May 2017

Slavoj Zizek is International Director at the Birkbeck Institute for Humanities, University of London, and Senior Researcher at the Department of Philosophy, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia. His most recent book is Disparities.


The lesson of the recent referendum in Turkey is a very sad one.

After Recep Tayyip Erdogan's dubious victory, Western liberal media were full of critical analyses: the century of the Kemalist endeavour to secularize Turkey is over; the Turkish voters were offered not so much a democratic choice as a referendum to limit democracy and voluntarily endorse an authoritarian regime.

However, more important and less noticed was the subtle ambiguity of many Western reactions - an ambiguity which recalls the ambiguity of Trump's politics towards Israel: even while he stated that the United States should recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, many of his supporters are openly anti-Semitic.

But is this really an inconsistent stance?

A cartoon published back in July 2008 in the Viennese daily Die Presse depicted two stocky Nazi-looking Austrians sit at a table, and one of them holding a newspaper and commenting to his friend: "Here you can see again how a totally justified anti-Semitism is being misused for a cheap critique of Israel!"

This caricature thereby inverts the standard argument against the critics of the policies of the State of Israel. But when today's Christian fundamentalist supporters of Israeli politics reject Leftist critiques of Israeli policies, is their implicit line of argumentation not uncannily close to its reasoning?
Remember Anders Breivik, the Norwegian anti-immigrant mass murderer: he was anti-Semitic, but pro-Israel, since he saw in the State of Israel the first line of defence against the Muslim expansion; he even wanted to see the Jerusalem Temple rebuilt, but he wrote in his "Manifesto":
"There is no Jewish problem in Western Europe (with the exception of the UK and France) as we only have 1 million in Western Europe, whereas 800,000 out of these 1 million live in France and the UK. The US on the other hand, with more than 6 million Jews (600% more than Europe) actually has a considerable Jewish problem."
His figures thus realize the ultimate paradox of the Zionist anti-Semite - and we find the traces of this strange stance more often than one would expect. Reinhard Heydrich himself, the mastermind of the Holocaust, wrote in 1935:
"We must separate the Jews into two categories, the Zionists and the partisans of assimilation. The Zionists profess a strictly racial concept and, through emigration to Palestine, they help to build their own Jewish State ... our good wishes and our official goodwill go with them."
As Frank Ruda has pointed out, today we are getting a new version of this Zionist anti-Semitism: Islamophobic respect for Islam. The same politicians who warn of the danger of the Islamisation of the Christian West - from Trump to Putin - respectfully congratulated Erdogan for his victory. The authoritarian reign of Islam is fine for Turkey, it would seem, but not for us.

We can thus easily imagine a new version of the cartoon from Die Presse, with two stocky Nazi-looking Austrians sitting at a table, one of them holding a newspaper and commenting: "Here you can see again how a totally justified Islamophobia is being misused for a cheap critique of Turkey!"

Click Here to Read Full Article


Reading Žižek – Where to Start?



ZIZEK BOOKS

“I would prefer not to” is to be taken literally:

Excerpted from The Parallax View by Slavoj Žižek:

And this brings us back to Melville’s Bartleby. His “I would prefer not to” is to be taken literally: it says “I would prefer not to,” not “I don’t prefer (or care) to”—so we are back at Kant’s distinction between negative and in finite judgment. In his refusal of the Master’s order, Bartleby does not negate the predicate; rather, he affirms a non-predicate: he does not say that he doesn’t want to do it; he says that he prefers (wants) not to do it. This is how we pass from the politics of “resistance” or “protestation,” which para-sitizes upon what it negates, to a politics which opens up a new space outside the hegemonic position and its negation.We can imagine the varieties of such a gesture in today’s public space: not only the obvious “There are great chances of a new career here! Join us!”—“I would prefer not to”; but also “Discover the depths of your true self, find inner peace!”—“I would prefer not to”; or “Are you aware how our environment is endangered? Do something for ecology!”—“I would prefer not to”; or “What about all the racial and sexual injustices that we witness all around us? Isn’t it time to do more?”—“I would prefer not to.” This is the gesture of subtraction at its purest, the reduction of all qualitative differences to a purely formal minimal difference.


Are we not making the same point here as Hardt and Negri in Empire, who also refer to Bartleby as the figure of resistance, of saying No! to the existing universe of social machinery? The difference is double. First, for HN, Bartleby’s “I would prefer not to” is interpreted as merely the first move of, as it were, clearing the table, of acquiring a distance toward the existing social universe; what is then needed is a move toward the painstaking work of constructing a new community—if we remain stuck at the Bartleby stage, we end up in a suicidal marginal position with no consequences.... From our point of view, however, this, precisely, is the conclusion to be avoided: in its political mode, Bartleby’s “I would prefer not to” is not the starting point of “abstract negation” which should then be overcome in the patient positive work of the “deter-minate negation” of the existing social universe, but a kind of arche, the underlying principle that sustains the entire movement: far from “overcoming” it, the subsequent work of construction, rather, gives body to it.

This brings us back to the central theme of this book: the parallax shift. Bartleby’s attitude is not merely the first, preparatory, stage for the second, more “constructive,” work of forming a new alternative order; it is the very source and background of this order, its permanent foundation. The difference between Bartleby’s gesture of withdrawal and the formation of a new order is—again, and for the last time—that of parallax: the very frantic and engaged activity of constructing a new order is sustained by an underlying “I would prefer not to” which forever reverberates in it—or, as Hegel
might have put it, the new postrevolutionary order does not negate its founding gesture, the explosion of the destructive fury that wipes away the Old; it merely gives body to this negativity. The difficulty of imagining the New is the difficulty of imagining Bartleby in power. Thus the logic of the move from the superego-parallax to the Bartleby-parallax is very precise: it is the move from something to nothing, from the gap between two “somethings” to the gap that separates a something from nothing, from the void of its own place.That is to say: in a “revolutionary situation,” what, exactly, happens to the gap between the public Law and its obscene superego supplement? It is not that, in a kind of metaphysical unity, the gap is simply abolished, that we obtain only a public regulation of social life, deprived of any hidden obscene supplement. The gap remains, but reduced to a structural minimum: to the “pure” difference between the set of social regulations and the void of their absence. In other words, Bartleby’s gesture is what remains of the supplement to the Law when its place it emptied of all its obscene superego content.

We should draw the same conclusions at the most general level of ontological difference itself: it brings to an extreme the traditional philosophical difference between the physical level and the metaphysical level, between the empirical and the transcendental, by reducing it to the “minimal” difference between what is, something, and—not another, “higher,” reality, but—nothing. Overcoming metaphysics does not mean reducing the metaphysical dimension to ordinary physical reality (or, in a more “Marxist” way, showing how all metaphysical specters arise from the antagonisms of real life), but reducing the difference between material reality and another, “higher” reality to the immanent difference, gap, between this reality and its own void; that is, to discern the void that separates material reality from itself, that makes it “non-all.” And the same goes for the ultimate parallax of political economy, the gap between the reality of everyday material social life (people interacting among themselves and with nature, suffering, consuming, and so on) and the Real of the speculative dance of Capital, its self-propelling movement which seems to be disconnected from ordinary reality. We can experience this gap very tangibly when we visit a country where life is obviously in a shambles, we see a lot of ecological decay and human misery; the econ- omist’s report we read afterward however, informs us that the country’s economic situation is “financially sane.”. . . Marx’s point here is not primarily to reduce the second dimension to the fi rst (to demonstrate how the supranatural mad dance of commodities arises out of the antagonisms of “real life”); his point is, rather, that we cannot properly grasp the first (the social reality of material production and social interaction) without the second: it is the self-propelling metaphysical dance of Capital that runs the show, that provides the key to real-life developments and catastrophes.


Second (and more important, perhaps), the withdrawal expressed by “I would prefer not to” is not to be reduced to the attitude of “saying no to the Empire” but, first and foremost, to all the wealth of what I have called the rumspringa of resistance, all the forms of resisting which help the system to reproduce itself by ensuring our participation in it—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. . . .” A distance toward the direct hegemonic interpellation—“Involve yourself in market competition, be active and productive!”—is the very mode of operation of today’s ideology: today’s ideal subject says to himself: “I am well aware that the whole business of social competition and material success is just an empty game, that my true Self is elsewhere!” If anything, “I would prefer not to” expresses, rather, a refusal to play the “Western Buddhist” game of “social reality is just an illusory game.”

― Slavoj Žižek, The Parallax View






Reading Žižek – Where to Start?



ZIZEK BOOKS

Slavoj Zizek: Don’t believe the liberals – there is no real choice between Le Pen and Macron

Yes, Le Pen is a threat, but if we throw all our support behind Macron, do we not get caught into a kind of circle and fight the effect by way of supporting the very neoliberalism that fuels the far right?


The title of a comment piece which appeared in The Guardian, the UK voice of the anti-Assange-pro-Hillary liberal left, says it all: “Le Pen is a far-right Holocaust revisionist. Macron isn’t. Hard choice?”

Predictably, the text proper begins with: “Is being an investment banker analogous with being a Holocaust revisionist? Is neoliberalism on a par with neofascism?” and mockingly dismisses even the conditional leftist support for the second-round Macron vote, the stance of: “I’d now vote Macron – VERY reluctantly.”

This is liberal blackmail at its worst: one should support Macron unconditionally; it doesn’t matter that he is a neoliberal centrist, just that he is against Le Pen. It’s the old story of Hillary versus Trump: in the face of the fascist threat, we should all gather around her banner (and conveniently forget how her side brutally outmanoeuvred Sanders and thus contributed to losing the election).

Read Full Article Here.


Slavoj Žižek: Freud Lives!

In recent years, it’s often been said that psychoanalysis is dead. New advances in the brain sciences have finally put it where it belongs, alongside religious confessors and dream-readers in the lumber-room of pre-scientific obscurantist searches for hidden meaning. As Todd Dufresne put it, no figure in the history of human thought was more wrong about all the fundamentals – with the exception of Marx, some would add. The Black Book of Communism was followed last year by the Black Book of Psychoanalysis, which listed all the theoretical mistakes and instances of clinical fraud perpetrated by Freud and his followers. In this way, at least, the profound solidarity of Marxism and psychoanalysis is now there for all to see.


A century ago, Freud included psychoanalysis as one of what he described as the three ‘narcissistic illnesses’. First, Copernicus demonstrated that the Earth moves around the Sun, thereby depriving humans of their central place in the universe. Then Darwin demonstrated that we are the product of evolution, thereby depriving us of our privileged place among living beings. Finally, by making clear the predominant role of the unconscious in psychic processes, Freud showed that the ego is not master even in its own house. Today, scientific breakthroughs seem to bring further humiliation: the mind is merely a machine for data-processing, our sense of freedom and autonomy merely a ‘user’s illusion’. In comparison, the conclusions of psychoanalysis seem rather conservative.
Is psychoanalysis outdated? It certainly appears to be. It is outdated scientifically, in that the cognitivist-neurobiologist model of the human mind has superseded the Freudian model; it is outdated in the psychiatric clinic, where psychoanalytic treatment is losing ground to drug treatment and behavioural therapy; and it is outdated in society more broadly, where the notion of social norms which repress the individual’s sexual drives doesn’t hold up in the face of today’s hedonism. But we should not be too hasty. Perhaps we should instead insist that the time of psychoanalysis has only just arrived.

One of the consistent themes of today’s conservative cultural critique is that, in our permissive era, children lack firm limits and prohibitions. This frustrates them, driving them from one excess to another. Only a firm boundary set up by some symbolic authority can guarantee stability and satisfaction – the satisfaction that comes of violating the prohibition. In order to make clear the way negation functions in the unconscious, Freud cited the comment one of his patients made after recounting a dream about an unknown woman: ‘Whoever this woman in my dream is, I know she is not my mother.’ A clear proof, for Freud, that the woman was his mother. What better way to characterise the typical patient of today than to imagine his reaction to the same dream: ‘Whoever this woman in my dream is, I’m sure she has something to do with my mother!’

Traditionally, psychoanalysis has been expected to enable the patient to overcome the obstacles preventing his or her access to normal sexual satisfaction: if you are not able to get it, visit an analyst and he will help you to lose your inhibitions. Now that we are bombarded from all sides by the injunction to ‘Enjoy!’, psychoanalysis should perhaps be regarded differently, as the only discourse in which you are allowed not to enjoy: not ‘not allowed to enjoy’, but relieved of the pressure to enjoy.
Nowhere is this paradoxical change in the role of psychoanalytic interpretation clearer than in the case of dreams. The conventional understanding of Freud’s theory of dreams is that a dream is the phantasmic realisation of some censored unconscious desire, which is as a rule of a sexual nature. At the beginning of The Interpretation of Dreams, Freud provides a detailed interpretation of his own dream about ‘Irma’s injection’. The interpretation is surprisingly reminiscent of an old Soviet joke: ‘Did Rabinovitch win a new car on the state lottery?’ ‘In principle, yes, he did. Only it was not a car but a bicycle, it was not new but old, and he did not win it, it was stolen from him!’ Is a dream the manifestation of the dreamer’s unconscious sexual desire? In principle, yes. Yet in the dream Freud chose to demonstrate his theory of dreams, his desire is neither sexual nor unconscious, and, moreover, it’s not his own.

The dream begins with a conversation between Freud and his patient Irma about the failure of her treatment because of an infection caused by an injection. In the course of the conversation, Freud approaches her and looks deep into her mouth. He is confronted with the unpleasant sight of scabs and curly structures like nasal bones. At this point, the horror suddenly changes to comedy. Three doctors, friends of Freud, among them one called Otto, appear and begin to enumerate, in ridiculous pseudo-professional jargon, possible (and mutually exclusive) causes of Irma’s infection. If anyone had been to blame, it transpires in the dream, it is Otto, because he gave Irma the injection: ‘Injections ought not to be made so thoughtlessly,’ the doctors conclude, ‘and probably the syringe had not been clean.’ So, the ‘latent thought’ articulated in the dream is neither sexual nor unconscious, but Freud’s fully conscious wish to absolve himself of responsibility for the failure of Irma’s treatment. How does this fit with the thesis that dreams manifest unconscious sexual desires?
A crucial refinement is necessary here. The unconscious desire which animates the dream is not merely the dream’s latent thought, which is translated into its explicit content, but another unconscious wish, which inscribes itself in the dream through the Traumarbeit (‘dream-work’), the process whereby the latent thought is distorted into the dream’s explicit form. Here lies the paradox of the dream-work: we want to get rid of a pressing, disturbing thought of which we are fully conscious, so we distort it, translating it into the hieroglyph of the dream. However, it is through this distortion that another, much more fundamental desire encodes itself in the dream, and this desire is unconscious and sexual.

What is the ultimate meaning of Freud’s dream? In his own analysis, Freud focuses on the dream-thought, on his ‘superficial’ wish to be blameless in his treatment of Irma. However, in the details of his interpretation there are hints of deeper motivations. The dream-encounter with Irma reminds Freud of several other women. The oral examination recalls another patient, a governess, who had appeared a ‘picture of youthful beauty’ until he looked into her mouth. Irma’s position by a window reminds him of a meeting with an ‘intimate woman friend’ of Irma’s of whom he ‘had a very high opinion’; thinking about her now, Freud has ‘every reason to suppose that this other lady, too, was a hysteric’. The scabs and nasal bones remind him of his own use of cocaine to reduce nasal swelling, and of a female patient who, following his example, had developed an ‘extensive necrosis of the nasal mucous membrane’. His consultation with one of the doctors brings to mind an occasion on which Freud’s treatment of a woman patient gave rise to a ‘severe toxic state’, to which she subsequently ‘succumbed’; the patient had the same name as his eldest daughter, Mathilde. The unconscious desire of the dream is Freud’s wish to be the ‘primordial father’ who possesses all the women Irma embodies in the dream.

However, the dream presents a further enigma: whose desire does it manifest? Recent commentaries clearly establish that the true motivation behind the dream was Freud’s desire to absolve Fliess, his close friend and collaborator, of responsibility and guilt. It was Fliess who botched Irma’s nose operation, and the dream’s desire is not to exculpate Freud himself, but his friend, who was, at this point, Freud’s ‘subject supposed to know’, the object of his transference. The dream dramatises his wish to show that Fliess wasn’t responsible for the medical failure, that he wasn’t lacking in knowledge. The dream does manifest Freud’s desire – but only insofar as his desire is already the Other’s (Fliess’s) desire.

Why do we dream? Freud’s answer is deceptively simple: the ultimate function of the dream is to enable the dreamer to stay asleep. This is usually interpreted as bearing on the kinds of dream we have when some external disturbance – noise, for example – threatens to wake us. In such a situation, the sleeper immediately begins to imagine a situation which incorporates this external stimulus and thereby is able to continue sleeping for a while longer; when the external stimulus becomes too strong, he finally wakes up. Are things really so straightforward? In another famous example from The Interpretation of Dreams, an exhausted father, whose young son has just died, falls asleep and dreams that the child is standing by his bed in flames, whispering the horrifying reproach: ‘Father, can’t you see I’m burning?’ Soon afterwards, the father wakes to discover that a fallen candle has set fire to his dead son’s shroud. He had smelled the smoke while asleep, and incorporated the image of his burning son into his dream to prolong his sleep. Had the father woken up because the external stimulus became too strong to be contained within the dream-scenario? Or was it the obverse, that the father constructed the dream in order to prolong his sleep, but what he encountered in the dream was much more unbearable even than external reality, so that he woke up to escape into that reality.

In both dreams, there is a traumatic encounter (the sight of Irma’s throat, the vision of the burning son); but in the second dream, the dreamer wakes at this point, while in the first, the horror gives way to the arrival of the doctors. The parallel offers us the key to understanding Freud’s theory of dreams. Just as the father’s awakening from the second dream has the same function as the sudden change of tone in the first, so our ordinary reality enables us to evade an encounter with true trauma.
Adorno said that the Nazi motto ‘Deutschland, erwache!’ actually meant its opposite: if you responded to this call, you could continue to sleep and dream (i.e. to avoid engagement with the real of social antagonism). In the first stanza of Primo Levi’s poem ‘Reveille’ the concentration camp survivor recalls being in the camp, asleep, dreaming intense dreams about returning home, eating, telling his relatives his story, when, suddenly, he is woken up by the Polish kapo’s command ‘Wstawac!’ (‘Get up!’). In the second stanza, he is at home after the war, well fed, having told his story to his family, when, suddenly, he imagines hearing again the shout, ‘Wstawac!’ The reversal of the relationship between dream and reality from the first stanza to the second is crucial. Their content is formally the same – the pleasant domestic scene is interrupted by the injunction ‘Get up!’ – but in the first, the dream is cruelly interrupted by the wake-up call, while in the second, reality is interrupted by the imagined command. We might imagine the second example from The Interpretation of Dreams as belonging to the Holocaust survivor who, unable to save his son from the crematorium, is haunted afterwards by his reproach: ‘Vater, siehst du nicht dass ich verbrenne?’
In our ‘society of the spectacle’, in which what we experience as everyday reality more and more takes the form of the lie made real, Freud’s insights show their true value. Consider the interactive computer games some of us play compulsively, games which enable a neurotic weakling to adopt the screen persona of a macho aggressor, beating up other men and violently enjoying women. It’s all too easy to assume that this weakling takes refuge in cyberspace in order to escape from a dull, impotent reality. But perhaps the games are more telling than that. What if, in playing them, I articulate the perverse core of my personality which, because of ethico-social constraints, I am not able to act out in real life? Isn’t my virtual persona in a way ‘more real than reality’? Isn’t it precisely because I am aware that this is ‘just a game’ that in it I can do what I would never be able to in the real world? In this precise sense, as Lacan put it, the Truth has the structure of a fiction: what appears in the guise of dreaming, or even daydreaming, is sometimes the truth on whose repression social reality itself is founded. Therein resides the ultimate lesson of The Interpretation of Dreams: reality is for those who cannot sustain the dream.

― Slavoj Zizek, How To Read Lacan

Reading Žižek – Where to Start?

 

Slavoj Žižek: "Violence" | Talks @ Google

The Authors@Google program was pleased to welcome Slavoj Žižek to Google's New York office to discuss his book, "Violence: Six Sideways Reflections ".



Violence, Žižek states, takes three forms--subjective (crime, terror), objective (racism, hate-speech, discrimination), and systemic (the catastrophic effects of economic and political systems)--and often one form of violence blunts our ability to see the others, raising complicated questions.

Does the advent of capitalism and, indeed, civilization cause more violence than it prevents? Is there violence in the simple idea of "the neighbour"? And could the appropriate form of action against violence today simply be to contemplate, to think?

Violence: Six Sideways Reflections

Beginning with these and other equally contemplative questions, Žižek discusses the inherent violence of globalization, capitalism, fundamentalism, and language, in a work that will confirm his standing as one of our most erudite and incendiary modern thinkers.


Reading Žižek – Where to Start?

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