Slavoj Žižek: Game of Thrones tapped into fears of revolution and political women – and left us no better off than before

So justice prevailed – but what kind of justice?

The last season of the Game of Thrones has prompted public outcry and culminated in a petition (signed by almost 1 million outraged viewers) to disqualify the entire season and re-shoot a new one. The ferocity of the debate is in itself a proof that the ideological stakes must be high.

The dissatisfaction turned on a couple of points: bad scenario (under the pressure to quickly end the series, the complexity of the narrative was simplified), bad psychology (Daenerys’ turn to “Mad Queen” was not justified by her character development), etc.

One of the few intelligent voices in the debate was that of the author Stephen King who noted that dissatisfaction was not generated by the bad ending but the fact of the ending itself. In our epoch of series which in principle could go on indefinitely, the idea of narrative closure becomes intolerable.

It is true that, in the series’ swift denouement, a strange logic takes over, a logic that does not violate credible psychology but rather the narrative presuppositions of a TV series. In the last season, it is simply the preparation for a battle, mourning and destruction after the battle, and of the battler itself in all its meaninglessness – much more realistic for me than the usual gothic melodramatic plots.

Season eight stages three consecutive struggles. The first one is between humanity and its inhuman “Others” (the Night Army from the North led by the Night King); between the two main groups of humans (the evil Lannisters and the coalition against them led by Daenerys and Starks); and the inner conflict between Daenerys and the Starks.

This is why the battles in season eight follow a logical path from an external opposition to the inner split: the defeat of the inhuman Night Army, the defeat of Lannisters and the destruction of King’s Landing; the last struggle between the Starks and Daenerys – ultimately between traditional “good” nobility (Starks) faithfully protecting their subjects from bad tyrants, and Daenerys as a new type of a strong leader, a kind of progressive bonapartist acting on behalf of the underprivileged.

The stakes in the final conflict are thus: should the revolt against tyranny be just a fight for the return of the old kinder version of the same hierarchical order, or should it develop into the search for a new order that is needed?

The finale combines the rejection of a radical change with an old anti-feminist motif at work in Wagner. For Wagner, there is nothing more disgusting than a woman who intervenes in political life, driven by the desire for power. In contrast to male ambition, a woman wants power in order to promote her own narrow family interests or, even worse, her personal caprice, incapable as she is of perceiving the universal dimension of state politics.

The same femininity which, within the close circle of family life, is the power of protective love, turns into obscene frenzy when displayed at the level of public and state affairs. Recall the lowest point in the dialogue of Game of Thrones when Daenerys tells Jon that if he cannot love her as a queen then fear should reign – the embarrassing, vulgar motif of a sexually unsatisfied woman who explodes into destructive fury.

But – let’s bite our sour apple now – what about Daenerys’ murderous outbursts? Can the ruthless killing of the thousands of ordinary people in King’s Landing really be justified as a necessary step to universal freedom? At this point, we should remember that the scenario was written by two men.

Daenerys as the Mad Queen is strictly a male fantasy, so the critics were right when they pointed out that her descent into madness was psychologically not justified. The view of Daenerys with mad-furious expression flying on a dragon and burning houses and people expresses patriarchal ideology with its fear of a strong political woman.

The final destiny of the leading women in Game of Thrones fits these coordinates. Even if the good Daenerys wins and destroys the bad Cersei, power corrupts her. Arya (who saved them all by single-handedly killing the Night King) also disappears, sailing to the West of the West (as if to colonise America).

The one who remains (as the queen of the autonomous kingdom of the North) is Sansa, a type of women beloved by today’s capitalism: she combines feminine softness and understanding with a good dose of intrigue, and thus fully fits the new power relations. This marginalisation of women is a key moment of the general liberal-conservative lesson of the finale: revolutions have to go wrong, they bring new tyranny, or, as Jon put it to Daenerys:

“The people who follow you know that you made something impossible happen. Maybe that helps them believe that you can make other impossible things happen: build a world that’s different from the shit one they’ve always known. But if you use dragons to melt castles and burn cities, you’re no different.”

Consequently, Jon kills out of love (saving the cursed woman from herself, as the old male-chauvinist formula says) the only social agent in the series who really fought for something new, for a new world that would put an end to old injustices.

So justice prevailed – but what kind of justice? The new king is Bran: crippled, all-knowing, who wants nothing – with the evocation of the insipid wisdom that the best rulers are those who do not want power. A dismissive laughter that ensues when one of the new elite proposes a more democratic selection of the king tells it all.

And one cannot help but note that those faithful to Daenerys to the end are more diverse – her military commander is black – while the new rulers are clearly white Nordic. The radical queen who wanted more freedom for everyone irrespective of their social standing and race is eliminated, things are brought back to normal.

Original article: Game of Thrones tapped into fears of revolution and political women – and left us no better off than before

The Zizek Calendar

Reading Žižek – Where to Start?

Slavoj Zizek: Fearing establishment, Sanders’ leftist critics offer socialism, without socialism

What a surprise! After Bernie Sanders announced his bid for the US presidency, attacks on him instantly arose from all sides.

They came not only from President Trump, who referred to him as a "wacko," nor the usual bunch of conservative commentators who proposed dozens of variations on the motif "You want Sanders as president? Look at Venezuela today!"

The smears also came from his more centrist Democratic Party opponents. And reading these barbs, one is immediately overwhelmed by a feeling of deja vu. Because we have lived through this situation before, in the time of the Democratic primaries contested between Sanders and Hillary Clinton.

Arguably, the Clinton campaign against Sanders reached its lowest point when, campaigning for Hillary, Madeline Albright said: "There's a special place in hell for women who don't help each other!" (Meaning: females voting for Sanders instead of Clinton.)

Now maybe we should amend this statement: there is a special place in hell for women (and men) who think half a million dead children is an acceptable price for a military intervention that ruins a country (as Albright said in support of the massive bombing of Iraq back in 1996), while wholeheartedly supporting women's rights and gay rights at home.

Is Albright's worldview not infinitely more obscene and lewd than all Trump's sexist banalities? We are not yet there, but we are slowly approaching it.

Strong principles

Liberal attacks on Sanders for his alleged rejection of identity politics returned from the dead again, ignoring that Sanders is doing the exact opposite, insisting on a link between class, race and gender.

One has to support him unconditionally when he rejects identity in itself as a reason to vote for someone: "It is not good enough for somebody to say, I'm a woman, vote for me. What we need is a woman who has the guts to stand up to Wall Street, to the insurance companies, to the drug companies, to the fossil fuel industry."

As expected, for this very statement, Sanders was attacked as a white male chauvinist advocating "class reductionism." Indeed, don't be surprised if it will be soon denounced as an expression of toxic masculinity.

If we disregard straight lies (like the claim, proven false, that the young Sanders did not work with Martin Luther King in the civil rights struggle), the strategy of those who privilege Warren over Sanders is a rather simple one.

First, they claim that the difference between their respective economic programs is minimal and negligible. (One is tempted to add here: yes, minimal, like the fact that Sanders proclaims himself a democratic socialist, while Warren insists she is a capitalist to her bones... It is sad to hear Elisabeth Warren declaring herself a "capitalist to the bones" when even top corporate managers like Bill Gates, Elon Musk or Mark Zuckenberg talk about how capitalism, at least the way it functions now, cannot survive.)

Muddying waters

Then, critics claim that in contrast to Sanders' exclusive focus on economic injustice, Warren also brings in gender and race injustices, so her advantage over Sanders is clear: only Warren can unite a broad progressive front against Trump.

Ultimately, critics of Sanders end up with a kind of electoral affirmative action: Sanders is a man and Warren a woman. Thus, two key facts get obfuscated here: the democratic socialist of Sanders is much more radical than Warren, who remains firmly within the Democratic establishment.

Plus it is simply not true that Sanders ignores racial and gender struggles – he just brings out the link with economic struggle.

Warren is not, as her defenders claim, a third way between centrist Democrats and Democratic Socialists, the synthesis of what is best in race/gender identity politics and in the struggle for economic justice.

No, she is just Hillary Clinton with a slightly more human face. Even defenders of Warren admit that her claim to Native American roots was a mistake – but was it really just an innocent mistake?

The Cherokee Nation's secretary of state, Chuck Hoskin Jr, responded to the test showing Warren was between 1/64th and 1/1,024th Native American: "A DNA test is useless to determine tribal citizenship. Current DNA tests do not even distinguish whether a person's ancestors were indigenous to North or South America."

Hoskin was right, and what one should add is that to prove that you have a little bit of exotic ancestry is to legitimize your popular roots – it has nothing whatsoever to do with the actual fight against racism.

However, the main point is that Warren applied for a "progressive" cause, using the same procedure that the Nazis applied to identify those with suspected Jewish blood.

On today's market, we find a whole series of products deprived of their malignant property: coffee without caffeine, cream without fat, beer without alcohol, and the list goes on.

What about virtual sex as sex without sex and what about the contemporary politics – the art of expert administration – as politics without politics? Do "Leftist" Democrats attacking Sanders not offer something similar – socialism without socialism, deprived of the features that make it a threat to the establishment?

Original article: Slavoj Zizek: Fearing establishment, Sanders’ leftist critics offer socialism, without socialism

The Zizek Calendar

Reading Žižek – Where to Start?

A Slavoj Zizek [Poem]

There is nothing, basically.
I mean it quite literally.
But then how do things emerge?

Here I feel a kind of spontaneous
Affinity with quantum physics,
Where, you know, the idea there is;
That universe is a void, but kind of
A positively charged void.

And then particular things appear when
The balance of the void is disturbed.
And I like this idea spontaneously very much,
That the fact is that it’s not just nothing.
Things are out there.

It means something went terribly wrong.
What we call creation is kind of a cosmic
Imbalance; cosmic catastrophe.
That things exist by mistake.

And I’m even ready to go the end,
And to claim that, the only way to
Counteract it is to assume the mistake
And go to the end. And we have a name
For this, it’s called love.

Isn’t love this kind of cosmic imbalance?
I was always disgusted with this notion that
'I love the world; universal love'.

I don’t like the world. I’m basically somewhere
In between ’I hate the world’ and ’I’m indifferent towards it’.
But the whole of reality it’s just it, it’s stupid.
It’s out there, I don’t care.

Love for me is an extremely violent act.
Love is not: I love you all,
Love means: I pick out something, and
It’s again this structure of imbalance.

Even if this something is just a small detail,
A fragile individual person,
'I say I love you more than anything else'.
In this quite formal sense, love is evil.

Reading Žižek – Where to Start?

Slavoj Žižek: Ideology Is the Original Augmented Reality

Excerpted from Incontinence of the Void: Economico-Philosophical Spandrels by Slavoj Žižek published by The MIT Press. © 2017

How we fill gaps in our everyday experiences.

Released in July 2016, Pokémon Go is a location-based, augmented-reality game for mobile devices, typically played on mobile phones; players use the device’s GPS and camera to capture, battle, and train virtual creatures (“Pokémon”) who appear on the screen as if they were in the same real-world location as the player: As players travel the real world, their avatar moves along the game’s map. Different Pokémon species reside in different areas—for example, water-type Pokémon are generally found near water. When a player encounters a Pokémon, AR (Augmented Reality) mode uses the camera and gyroscope on the player’s mobile device to display an image of a Pokémon as though it were in the real world.1 This AR mode is what makes Pokémon Go different from other PC games: Instead of taking us out of the real world and drawing us into the artificial virtual space, it combines the two; we look at reality and interact with it through the fantasy frame of the digital screen, and this intermediary frame supplements reality with virtual elements which sustain our desire to participate in the game, push us to look for them in a reality which, without this frame, would leave us indifferent. Sound familiar? Of course it does. What the technology of Pokémon Go externalizes is simply the basic mechanism of ideology—at its most basic, ideology is the primordial version of “augmented reality.”

The first step in this direction of technology imitating ideology was taken a couple of years ago by Pranav Mistry, a member of the Fluid Interfaces Group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab, who developed a wearable “gestural interface” called “SixthSense.”2 The hardware—a small webcam that dangles from one’s neck, a pocket projector, and a mirror, all connected wirelessly to a smartphone in one’s pocket—forms a wearable mobile device. The user begins by handling objects and making gestures; the camera recognizes and tracks the user’s hand gestures and the physical objects using computer vision-based techniques. The software processes the video stream data, reading it as a series of instructions, and retrieves the appropriate information (texts, images, etc.) from the Internet; the device then projects this information onto any physical surface available—all surfaces, walls, and physical objects around the wearer can serve as interfaces. Here are some examples of how it works: In a bookstore, I pick up a book and hold it in front of me; immediately, I see projected onto the book’s cover its reviews and ratings. I can navigate a map displayed on a nearby surface, zoom in, zoom out, or pan across, using intuitive hand movements. I make a sign of @ with my fingers and a virtual PC screen with my email account is projected onto any surface in front of me; I can then write messages by typing on a virtual keyboard. And one could go much further here—just think how such a device could transform sexual interaction. (It suffices to concoct, along these lines, a sexist male dream: Just look at a woman, make the appropriate gesture, and the device will project a description of her relevant characteristics—divorced, easy to seduce, likes jazz and Dostoyevsky, good at fellatio, etc., etc.) In this way, the entire world becomes a “multi-touch surface,” while the whole Internet is constantly mobilized to supply additional data allowing me to orient myself.

Incontinence of the Void: Economico-Philosophical Spandrels by Slavoj Žižek

Mistry emphasized the physical aspect of this interaction: Until now, the Internet and computers have isolated the user from the surrounding environment; the archetypal Internet user is a geek sitting alone in front of a screen, oblivious to the reality around him. With SixthSense, I remain engaged in physical interaction with objects: The alternative “either physical reality or the virtual screen world” is replaced by a direct interpenetration of the two. The projection of information directly onto the real objects with which I interact creates an almost magical and mystifying effect: Things appear to continuously reveal—or, rather, emanate—their own interpretation. This quasi-animist effect is a crucial component of the IoT: “Internet of things? These are nonliving things that talk to us, although they really shouldn’t talk. A rose, for example, which tells us that it needs water.”1 (Note the irony of this statement. It misses the obvious fact: a rose is alive.) But, of course, this unfortunate rose does not do what it “shouldn’t” do: It is merely connected with measuring apparatuses that let us know that it needs water (or they just pass this message directly to a watering machine). The rose itself knows nothing about it; everything happens in the digital big Other, so the appearance of animism (we communicate with a rose) is a mechanically generated illusion.

However, this magic effect of SixthSense does not simply represent a radical break with our everyday experience; rather, it openly stages what was always the case. That is to say: In our everyday experience of reality, the “big Other”—the dense symbolic texture of knowledge, expectations, prejudices, and so on—continuously fills in the gaps in our perception. For example, when a Western racist stumbles upon a poor Arab on the street, does he not “project” a complex of such prejudices and expectations onto the Arab, and thus “perceive” him in a certain way? This is why SixthSense presents us with another case of ideology at work in technology: The device imitates and materializes the ideological mechanism of (mis)recognition which overdetermines our everyday perceptions and interactions.

And does not something similar happen in Pokémon Go? To simplify things to the utmost, did Hitler not offer the Germans the fantasy frame of Nazi ideology that made them see a specific Pokémon—“the Jew”—popping up all around, and providing the clue to what one has to fight against? And does the same not hold for all other ideological pseudo-entities that have to be added to reality in order to make it complete and meaningful? One can easily imagine a contemporary anti-immigrant version of Pokémon Go where the player wanders about a German city and is threatened by Muslim immigrant rapists or thieves lurking everywhere. Here we encounter the crucial question: Is the form the same in all these cases, or is the anti-Semitic conspiracy theory which makes us see the Jewish plot as the source of our troubles formally different from the Marxist approach which observes social life as a battleground of economic and power struggles? There is a clear difference between these two cases: In the second case, the “secret” beneath all the confusion of social life is social antagonisms, not individual agents which can be personalized (in the guise of Pokémon figures), while Pokémon Go does inherently tend toward the ideologically personalized perception of social antagonisms. In the case of bankers threatening us from all around, it is not hard to see how such a figure can easily be appropriated by a Fascist populist ideology of plutocracy (as opposed to “honest” productive capitalists). … The point of the parallel between Nazi anti-Semitism and Pokémon Go is thus a very simple and elementary one: Although Pokémon Go presents itself as something new, grounded in the latest technology, it relies on old ideological mechanisms. Ideology is the practice of augmenting reality.

The general lesson from Pokémon Go is that, when we deal with the new developments in Virtual Reality (VR) technology, we usually focus on the prospect of full immersion, thereby neglecting the much more interesting possibilities of Augmented Reality (AR) and Mixed Reality (MR):

  • In VR, you wear something on your head (currently, a head-mounted display that can look like a boxy set of goggles or a space helmet) that holds a screen in front of your eyes, which in turn is powered by a computer. Thanks to specialized software and sensors, the experience becomes your reality, filling your vision; at the high end, this is often accompanied by 3-D audio that feels like a personal surround-sound system on your head, or controllers that let you reach out and interact with this artificial world in an intuitive way. The forthcoming development of VR will heighten the level of immersion so that it will feel as if we are fully present in it: When VR users look (and walk) around, their view of that world will adjust in the same way as it would if they were looking or moving in real reality.

  • AR takes our view of the real world and adds digital information, from simple numbers or text notifications to a complex simulated screen, making it possible to augment our view of reality with digital information about it without checking another device, leaving both our hands free for other tasks. We thus immediately see reality plus selected data about it that provide the interpretive frame of how to deal with it—for example, when we look at a car, we see the basic data about it on screen.

  • But the true miracle is MR: It lets us see the real world and, as part of the same reality, “believable” virtual objects which are “anchored” to points in real space, and thus enable us to treat them as “real.” Say, for example, that I am looking at an ordinary table, but see interactive virtual objects (a person, a machine, a model of a building) sitting on top of it; as I walk around, the virtual landscape holds its position, and when I lean in close, it gets closer in the way a real object would. To some degree, I can then interact with these virtual objects in such a “realistic” way that what I do to them has effects in non-virtual reality (for example, I press a button on the virtual machine and the air-conditioning starts to work in reality).2

We thus have four levels of reality: RR (“real” reality which we perceive and interact with), VR, AR, MR; but is RR really simply reality, or is even our most immediate experience of reality always mediated and sustained by some kind of virtual mechanism? Today’s cognitive science definitely supports the second view—for example, the basic premise of Daniel Dennett’s “heterophenomenology”3 is that subjective experience is the theorist’s (interpreter’s) symbolic fiction, his supposition, not the domain of phenomena directly accessible to the subject. The universe of subjective experience is reconstructed in exactly the same way as we reconstruct the universe of a novel from reading its text. In a first approach, this seems innocent enough, self-evident even: Of course we do not have direct access to another person’s mind, of course we have to reconstruct an individual’s self-experience from his external gestures, expressions and, above all, words. However, Dennett’s point is much more radical; he pushes the parallel to the extreme. In a novel, the universe we reconstruct is full of “holes,” not fully constituted; for example, when Conan Doyle describes Sherlock Holmes’s apartment, it is in a way meaningless to ask exactly how many books there were on the shelves—the writer simply did not have an exact idea of it in his mind. And, for Dennett, it is the same with another person’s experience in “reality”: what one should not do is to suppose that, deep in another’s psyche, there is a full self-experience of which we get only fragments. Even the appearances cannot be saved.

This central point of Dennett can be nicely explained if one contrasts it with two standard positions which are usually opposed as incompatible, but are in effect solidary: first-person phenomenalism and third-person behavioral operationalism. On the one hand, the idea that, even if our mind is merely software in our brains, nobody can take from us the full first-person experience of reality; on the other hand, the idea that, in order to understand the mind, we should limit ourselves to third-person observations which can be objectively verified, and not accept any first-person accounts. Dennett undermines this opposition with what he calls “first-person operationalism”: the gap is to be introduced into my very first-person experience—the gap between content and its registration, between represented time and the time of representation. A nice proto-Lacanian point of Dennett (and the key to his heterophenomenology) is this insistence on the distinction, in homology with space, between the time of representation and the representation of time: They are not the same, i.e., the loop of flashback is discernible even in our most immediate temporal experience—the succession of events ABCDEF … is represented in our consciousness so that it begins with E, then goes back to ABCD, and, finally, returns to F, which in reality directly follows E. So even in our most direct temporal self-experience, a gap akin to that between signifier and signified is already at work: Even here, one cannot “save the phenomena,” since what we (mis)perceive as a directly experienced representation of time (the phenomenal succession ABCDEF …) is already a “mediated” construct from a different time of representation (E/ABCD/F …).

“First-person operationalism” thus emphasizes how, even in our “direct (self-)experience,” there is a gap between content (the narrative inscribed into our memory) and the “operational” level of how the subject constructed this content, where we always have a series of rewritings and tinkerings: “introspection provides us—the subject as well as the ‘outside’ experimenter—only with the content of representation, not with the features of the representational medium itself.”3 In this precise sense, the subject is his own fiction: The content of his own self-experience is a narrativization in which memory traces already intervene. So when Dennett makes “ ‘writing it down’ in memory criterial for consciousness; that is what it is for the ‘given’ to be ‘taken’—to be taken one way rather than another,” and claims that “there is no reality of conscious experience independent of the effects of various vehicles of content on subsequent action (and, hence, on memory),”3 we should be careful not to miss the point: What counts for the concerned subject himself is the way an event is “written down,” memorized—memory is constitutive of my “direct experience” itself, i.e., “direct experience” is what I memorize as my direct experience. Or, to put it in Hegelian terms (which would undoubtedly appall Dennett): Immediacy itself is mediated, it is a product of the mediation of traces. One can also put this in terms of the relationship between direct experience and judgment on it: Dennett’s point is that there is no “direct experience” prior to judgment, i.e., what I (re)construct (write down) as my experience is already supported by judgmental decisions.

For this reason, the whole problem of “filling in the gaps” is a false problem, since there are no gaps to be filled in. Let us take the classic example of our reading a text which contains a lot of printing errors: Most of these errors pass unnoticed, i.e., since, in our reading, we are guided by an active attitude of recognizing patterns, we, for the most part, simply read the text as if there were no mistakes. The usual phenomenological account of this would be that, owing to my active attitude of recognizing ideal patterns, I “fill in the gaps” and automatically, even prior to my conscious perception, reconstitute the correct spelling, so that it appears to me that I am reading the correct text, without mistakes. But what if the actual procedure is different? Driven by the attitude of actively searching for known patterns, I quickly scan a text (our actual perception is much more discontinuous and fragmentary than it may appear), and this combination of an active attitude of searching and fragmented perception leads my mind directly to the conlcusion that, for example, the word I just read is “conclusion,” not “conlcusion,” as it was actually written? There are no gaps to be filled in here, since there is no moment of perceptual experience prior to the conclusion (i.e., judgment) that the word I have just read is “conclusion”: Again, my active attitude drives me directly to the conclusion.

Back to VR, AR, and MR: Is not the conclusion that imposes itself that our “direct” experience of “real” reality is already structured like a mixture of RR, AR, and MR? It is thus crucial to bear in mind that AR and MR “work” because they do not introduce a radical break into our engagement in reality, but mobilize a structure that is already at work in it. There are arguments (drawn from the brain sciences) that something like ideological confabulation is proper to the most elementary functioning of our brain; recall the famous split-brain experiment:

The patient was shown two pictures: of a house in the winter time and of a chicken’s claw. The pictures were positioned so they would exclusively be seen in only one visual field of the brain (the winter house was positioned so it would only be seen in the patient’s left visual field [LVF], which corresponds to the brain’s right hemisphere, and the chicken’s claw was placed so it would only be seen in the patient’s right visual field [RVF], which corresponds to the brain’s left hemisphere). 
A series of pictures was placed in front of the patient who was then asked to choose a picture with his right hand and a picture with his left hand. The paradigm was set up so the choices would be obvious for the patients. A snow shovel is used for shoveling the snowy driveway of the winter house and a chicken’s head correlates to the chicken’s claw. The other pictures do not in any way correlate with the two original pictures. The patient chose the snow shovel with his left hand (corresponding to his brain’s right hemisphere) and his right hand chose the chicken’s head (corresponding to the brain’s left hemisphere). When the patient was asked why he had chosen the pictures he had chosen, the answer he gave was astonishing: “The chicken claw goes with the chicken head, and you need a snow shovel to clean out the chicken shed.” Why would he say this? Wouldn’t it be obvious that the shovel goes with the winter house? For people with an intact corpus callosum, yes it is obvious, but not for a split-brain patient. Both the winter house and the shovel are being projected to the patient from his LVF, so his right hemisphere is receiving and processing the information and this input is completely independent from what is going on in the RVF, which involves the chicken’s claw and head (the information being processed in the left hemisphere). The human brain’s left hemisphere is primarily responsible for interpreting the meaning of the sensory input it receives from both fields, however the left hemisphere has no knowledge of the winter house. Because it has no knowledge of the winter house, it must invent a logical reason for why the shovel was chosen. Since the only objects it has to work with are the chicken’s claw and head, the left hemisphere interprets the meaning of choosing the shovel as “it is an object necessary to help the chicken, which lives in a shed, therefore, the shovel is used to clean the chicken’s shed.” Gazzaniga famously coined the term “left brain interpreter” to explain this phenomenon.4

It is crucial to note that the patient “wasn’t ‘consciously’ confabulating”: “The connection between the chicken claw and the shovel was an honest expression of what ‘he’ thought.”5 And is not ideology, at its most elementary, such an interpreter confabulating rationalizations in the conditions of repression? A somewhat simplified example: Let’s imagine the same experiment with two pictures shown to a subject fully immersed in ideology, a beautiful villa and a group of starving miserable workers; from the accompanying cards, he selects a fat rich man (inhabiting the villa) and a group of aggressive policemen (whose task is to squash the workers’ eventual desperate protest). His “left brain interpreter” doesn’t see the striking workers, so how does it account for the aggressive policemen? By confabulating a link such as: “Policemen are needed to protect the villa with the rich man from robbers who break the law.” Were not the (in)famous nonexistent weapons of mass destruction that justified the United States’ attack on Iraq precisely the result of such a confabulation, which had to fill in the void of the true reasons for the attack?

Excerpted from Incontinence of the Void: Economico-Philosophical Spandrels by Slavoj Žižek published by The MIT Press. © 2017


1. Quoted from Dnevnik newspaper, Ljubljana, Slovenia, Aug. 24, 2016.

2. Johnson, E. What are the differences between virtual, augmented and mixed reality? (2016).

3. Dennett, D.C. Consciousness Explained Little, Brown, Boston, MA (1991).

4. M.S. The split brain revisited. Scientific American 279, 50-55 (1998).

5. Foster, C. Wired to God? Hodder, London (2011).

Incontinence of the Void: Economico-Philosophical Spandrels by Slavoj Žižek

The "formidably brilliant" Zizek considers sexuality, ontology, subjectivity, and Marxian critiques of political economy by way of Lacanian psychoanalysis.

If the most interesting theoretical interventions emerge today from the interspaces between fields, then the foremost interspaceman is Slavoj Zizek. In Incontinence of the Void (the title is inspired by a sentence in Samuel Beckett's late masterpiece Ill Seen Ill Said), Zizek explores the empty spaces between philosophy, psychoanalysis, and the critique of political economy. He proceeds from the universal dimension of philosophy to the particular dimension of sexuality to the singular dimension of the critique of political economy. The passage from one dimension to another is immanent: the ontological void is accessible only through the impasses of sexuation and the ongoing prospect of the abolition of sexuality, which is itself opened up by the technoscientific progress of global capitalism, in turn leading to the critique of political economy.

Responding to his colleague and fellow Short Circuits author Alenka Zupancic's What Is Sex?, Zizek examines the notion of an excessive element in ontology that gives body to radical negativity, which becomes the antagonism of sexual difference. From the economico-philosophical perspective, Zizek extrapolates from ontological excess to Marxian surplus value to Lacan's surplus enjoyment. In true Zizekian fashion, Incontinence of the Void focuses on eternal topics while detouring freely into contemporary issuesfrom the Internet of Things to Danish TV series.

Reading Žižek – Where to Start?

Slavoj Zizek says ‘the dream of universal liberal democracy is over’

(16 April 2019)

Arjun Neil Alim speaks to the west’s most dangerous philosopher on how to resist radical right, Jordan Peterson and the digital surveillance state

Even the poor can no longer afford the favelas of Rio de Janeiro 

Sitting across from Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek, I begin to discern a pattern to his thought. Things are bad, catastrophic even, but never in the way we understand. The #MeToo movement failed, not because it alienated moderate supporters, but because it didn’t go far enough in creating an authentic solidarity. China’s creeping totalitarianism is horrifying, because it disguises similar developments in the west. Favelas in Latin America are bad, because the impoverished can’t even afford to live in them anymore.

“They said that the Rwandan genocide was linked to colonialism and one of my black friends exploded, ‘you white people are so patronising, you don’t even allow us to be evil on our own’.” Žižek’s radical Marxist philosophy can only be described as pessimistic absurdism. The 70-year old thinker is explaining to me that the liberal left in the west has failed to understand identity. In creating a culture of victimisation, they have succeeded in patronising and alienating minorities: “Of course, immense injustices were done to them, but we shouldn’t say ‘so now we should show our great liberalness and give them charity’, we should empower them.”

On why only black people can use the n-word: “It is extremely racist and humiliating because it implies that blacks are like spoilt children, they are not adults like you and me, where an adult is someone who can control himself and follow certain ethical rules.”

To interview the so-called ‘Elvis of Cultural Theory’ is like playing a dozen games of chess at once, one never quite knows where the next move is coming from. Born in Tito’s Yugoslavia, he draws on an eclectic mix of experiences and ideology, including GWF Hegel and Jacques Lacan.

Now a professor of philosophy at the University of Ljubljana, Žižek has written more than 80 books, most recently The Relevance of the Communist Manifesto, Incontinence of the Void, and Living in the End Times. He is known for his adept use of popular and elite culture to illustrate his philosophical points. When I probe his choice of examples, he retorts: “This is the Hegelian lesson of concrete universality. In politics ideas are never simply universal, there is always a concrete example which gives a spin to the universal idea.”

Read the full interview here:
Slavoj Zizek says ‘the dream of universal liberal democracy is over’

The Zizek Calendar

Reading Žižek – Where to Start?

Disorder Under Heaven: A Masterclass with Slavoj Zizek (AUDIO)

Our situation is dangerous, there are uncertainties and elements of chaos in our environment, in international relations, in biotechnology, in sexual relations… But it is here that we should remember Mao’s old motto: “There is great disorder under heaven, so the situation is excellent!”

Let’s not lose nerve, let’s exploit the confusion as a chance to propose a new radical vision.

In January 2019, an international team of scientists proposed “a diet that says can improve health while ensuring sustainable food production to reduce further damage to the planet.” We are talking about a radical reorganization of our entire food production and distribution – so how do we do it? Is it not clear that a strong global agency is needed with the power to coordinate such measures? And does not such an agency point in the direction of what we once called “Communism”? And does the same not hold for other threats to our survival as humans? Is a similar global agency not also needed to deal with the exploding problem of refugees and immigrants, with the problem of digital control over our lives? Let’s not be afraid to tackle the problem of the new order that the ongoing disorder is calling for.


Like A Thief In Broad Daylight: Power in the Era of Post-Human Capitalism

Slavoj Žižek: Hegel with Neuralink, Will our Immersion into Singularity Save Us from the Fall?

Visit to Film and Television Studies Program at University of Vermont, 4/16/2019

The Zizek Calendar

Reading Žižek – Where to Start?

Slavoj Žižek: Radical left is to blame for the growth in white nationalism (CBC)

Apr 18, 2019

Radical left is to blame for the growth in white nationalism, says philosopher and psychoanalyst

Disorder Under Heaven: A Masterclass with Slavoj Zizek

Starts: 29 April 2019, 14:00
Finishes: 30 April 2019, 16:00
Venue: Birkbeck Clore Management Centre, B01

Book your place now

Event description:

Our situation is dangerous, there are uncertainties and elements of chaos in our environment, in international relations, in biotechnology, in sexual relations… But it is here that we should remember Mao’s old motto: “There is great disorder under heaven, so the situation is excellent!”

Let’s not lose nerve, let’s exploit the confusion as a chance to propose a new radical vision.

In January 2019, an international team of scientists proposed “a diet that says can improve health while ensuring sustainable food production to reduce further damage to the planet.” We are talking about a radical reorganization of our entire food production and distribution – so how do we do it? Is it not clear that a strong global agency is needed with the power to coordinate such measures? And does not such an agency point in the direction of what we once called “Communism”? And does the same not hold for other threats to our survival as humans? Is a similar global agency not also needed to deal with the exploding problem of refugees and immigrants, with the problem of digital control over our lives? Let’s not be afraid to tackle the problem of the new order that the ongoing disorder is calling for.

Day 1: Monday 29th April: “Was Antigone a man? Masculinity and other toxic entities.”

Day 2: Tuesday 30th April: “Nomadic proletarians? No, thanks!”

Suggested Reading

Slavoj Zizek, Chapter 1, LIKE A THIEF IN BROAD DAYLIGHT (Allen 2019).

Slavoj Žižek, International Director, Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities

World-renowned public intellectual Professor Slavoj Zizek has published over 50 books (translated into 20 languages) on topics ranging from philosophy and Freudian and Lacanian psychoanalysis, to theology, film, opera and politics, including Lacan in Hollywood and The Fragile Absolute. He was a candidate for, and nearly won, the Presidency of his native Slovenia in the first democratic elections after the break-up of Yugoslavia in 1990. Although courted by many universities in the US, he resisted offers until the International Directorship of Birkbeck's Centre came up. Believing that 'Political issues are too serious to be left only to politicians', Zizek aims to promote the role of the public intellectual, to be intellectually active and to address the larger public.

The Zizek Calendar

Reading Žižek – Where to Start?

VIDEO: Žižek vs. Peterson: ‘Happiness: Capitalism vs. Marxism’

Reading Žižek – Where to Start?

Príspevok, ktorý zdieľa Zlazloj Zlizlek (@zlazlojzlizlek),

Príspevok, ktorý zdieľa Zlazloj Zlizlek (@zlazlojzlizlek),

Príspevok, ktorý zdieľa Zlazloj Zlizlek (@zlazlojzlizlek),

Príspevok, ktorý zdieľa Zlazloj Zlizlek (@zlazlojzlizlek),

Príspevok, ktorý zdieľa Zlazloj Zlizlek (@zlazlojzlizlek),

Slavoj Žižek is a Slovenian philosopher. He is a professor at the Institute for Sociology and Philosophy at the University of Ljubljana and international director of the Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities of the University of London.He works in subjects including continental philosophy, political theory, cultural studies, psychoanalysis, film criticism, Marxism, Hegelianism and theology.

In 1989, Žižek published his first English text, The Sublime Object of Ideology, in which he departed from traditional Marxist theory to develop a materialist conception of ideology that drew heavily on Lacanian psychoanalysis and Hegelian idealism. His early theoretical work became increasingly eclectic and political in the 1990s, dealing frequently in the critical analysis of disparate forms of popular culture and making him a popular figure of the academic left. A critic of capitalism, neoliberalism and political correctness, Žižek calls himself a political radical, and his work has been characterized as challenging orthodoxies of both the political right and the social-liberal universities.

Žižek’s idiosyncratic style, popular academic works, frequent magazine op-eds, and critical assimilation of high and low culture have gained him international influence, and a substantial audience outside academe. In 2012, Foreign Policy listed Žižek on its list of Top 100 Global Thinkers, calling him “a celebrity philosopher”

Reading Žižek – Where to Start?

Jordan B. Peterson is a clinical psychologist, cultural critic, former Harvard Professor, and currently a professor at the University of Toronto. His main areas of study are the psychology of religion and ideological belief, and the assessment and improvement of personality and performance. Dr. Peterson has published over one hundred scientific papers, as well as authored Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief, and the bestselling 12 Rules For Life: An Antidote to Chaos (January 2018). At Harvard, he was nominated for the prestigious Levinson Teaching Prize, and has been regarded as one of three of University of Toronto’s truly life changing professors. His classroom lectures on mythology and psychology were so well received that they were turned into a popular 13-part series on TVO. Dr. Peterson’s YouTube Channel has over 1.5 million subscribers, with videos averaging 1 million views, features his university and public lectures, responses to polarizing political crises of today and interviews with experts.

Jordan B. Peterson and his colleagues have produced online programs aimed at helping people understand their personalities and improve their lives. He has appeared on news sources such as BBC, Channel 4, as well as several popular podcasts and shows, including the Joe Rogan Experience, Under the Skin with Russell Brand, The Rubin Report, and many more. He has been featured in GQ, The New York Times, Esquire, and The New Yorker amoung many other publications.

The Zizek Calendar

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