Q&A: Slavoj Žižek

Q: Tell us a secret.

A: Communism will win.

― Slavoj Zizek, 2008.


When were you happiest?

A few times when I looked forward to a happy moment or remembered it - never when it was happening.

What is your greatest fear?

To awaken after death - that's why I want to be burned immediately.

What is your earliest memory?

My mother naked. Disgusting.

Which living person do you most admire, and why?

Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the twice-deposed president of Haiti. He is a model of what can be done for the people even in a desperate situation.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?

Indifference to the plights of others.

What is the trait you most deplore in others?

Their sleazy readiness to offer me help when I don't need or want it.

What was your most embarrassing moment?

Standing naked in front of a woman before making love.

Aside from a property, what's the most expensive thing you've bought?

The new German edition of the collected works of Hegel.

What is your most treasured possession?

See the previous answer.

What makes you depressed?

Seeing stupid people happy.

What do you most dislike about your appearance?

That it makes me appear the way I really am.

What is your most unappealing habit?

The ridiculously excessive tics of my hands while I talk.

What would be your fancy dress costume of choice?

A mask of myself on my face, so people would think I am not myself but someone pretending to be me.

What is your guiltiest pleasure?

Watching embarrassingly pathetic movies such as The Sound Of Music.

What do you owe your parents?

Nothing, I hope. I didn't spend a minute bemoaning their death.

To whom would you most like to say sorry, and why?

To my sons, for not being a good enough father.

What does love feel like?

Like a great misfortune, a monstrous parasite, a permanent state of emergency that ruins all small pleasures.

What or who is the love of your life?

Philosophy. I secretly think reality exists so we can speculate about it.

What is your favourite smell?

Nature in decay, like rotten trees.

Have you ever said 'I love you' and not meant it?

All the time. When I really love someone, I can only show it by making aggressive and bad-taste remarks.

Which living person do you most despise, and why?

Medical doctors who assist torturers.

What is the worst job you've done?

Teaching. I hate students, they are (as all people) mostly stupid and boring.

What has been your biggest disappointment?

What Alain Badiou calls the 'obscure disaster' of the 20th century: the catastrophic failure of communism.

If you could edit your past, what would you change?

My birth. I agree with Sophocles: the greatest luck is not to have been born - but, as the joke goes on, very few people succeed in it.

If you could go back in time, where would you go?

To Germany in the early 19th century, to follow a university course by Hegel.

How do you relax?

Listening again and again to Wagner.

How often do you have sex?

It depends what one means by sex. If it's the usual masturbation with a living partner, I try not to have it at all.

What is the closest you've come to death?

When I had a mild heart attack. I started to hate my body: it refused to do its duty to serve me blindly.

What single thing would improve the quality of your life?

To avoid senility.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

The chapters where I develop what I think is a good interpretation of Hegel.

What is the most important lesson life has taught you?

That life is a stupid, meaningless thing that has nothing to teach you.

Tell us a secret.

Communism will win.


Source: Q&A: Slavoj Žižek, 9 August 2008


Reading Žižek – Where to Start?



Postmodernism, or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism

Fredric Jameson 

Postmodernism
or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism

https://www.bookdepository.com/Postmodernism-or-The-Cultural-Logic-of-Late-Capitalism-Fredric-Jameson/9780822310907/?a_aid=dbclub

 

 


Source: Postmodernism, or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism Verso, 1991. Just two sections from Chapter 1 reproduced here.

I

The last few years have been marked by an inverted millenarianism in which premonitions of the future, catastrophic or redemptive, have been replaced by senses of the end of this or that (the end of ideology, art, or social class; the “crisis” of Leninism, social democracy, or the welfare state, etc., etc.); taken together, all of these perhaps constitute what is increasingly called postmodernism. The case for its existence depends on the hypothesis of some radical break or coupure, generally traced back to the end of the 1950s or the early 1960s.

As the word itself suggests, this break is most often related to notions of the waning or extinction of the hundred-year-old modern movement (or to its ideological or aesthetic repudiation). Thus abstract expressionism in painting, existentialism in philosophy, the final forms of representation in the novel, the films of the great auteurs, or the modernist school of poetry (as institutionalised and canonised in the works of Wallace Stevens) all are now seen as the final, extraordinary flowering of a high-modernist impulse which is spent and exhausted with them. The enumeration of what follows, then, at once becomes empirical, chaotic, and heterogeneous: Andy Warhol and pop art, but also photorealism, and beyond it, the “new expressionism”; the moment, in music, of John Cage, but also the synthesis of classical and “popular” styles found in composers like Phil Glass and Terry Riley, and also punk and new wave rock (the Beatles and the Stones now standing as the high-modernist moment of that more recent and rapidly evolving tradition); in film, Godard, post-Godard, and experimental cinema and video, but also a whole new type of commercial film (about which more below); Burroughs, Pynchon, or Ishmael Reed, on the one hand, and the French nouveau roman and its succession, on the other, along with alarming new kinds of literary criticism based on some new aesthetic of textuality or écriture ... The list might be extended indefinitely; but does it imply any more fundamental change or break than the periodic style and fashion changes determined by an older high-modernist imperative of stylistic innovation?

It is in the realm of architecture, however, that modifications in aesthetic production are most dramatically visible, and that their theoretical problems have been most centrally raised and articulated; it was indeed from architectural debates that my own conception of postmodernism – as it will be outlined in the following pages – initially began to emerge. More decisively than in the other arts or media, postmodernist positions in architecture have been inseparable from an implacable critique of architectural high modernism and of Frank Lloyd Wright or the so-called international style (Le Corbusier, Mies, etc), where formal criticism and analysis (of the high-modernist transformation of the building into a virtual sculpture, or monumental “duck,” as Robert Venturi puts it), are at one with reconsiderations on the level of urbanism and of the aesthetic institution. High modernism is thus credited with the destruction of the fabric of the traditional city and its older neighbourhood culture (by way of the radical disjunction of the new Utopian high-modernist building from its surrounding context), while the prophetic elitism and authoritarianism of the modern movement are remorselessly identified in the imperious gesture of the charismatic Master.
Postmodernism in architecture will then logically enough stage itself as a kind of aesthetic populism, as the very title of Venturi’s influential manifesto, Learning from Las Vegas, suggests. However we may ultimately wish to evaluate this populist rhetoric, it has at least the merit of drawing our attention to one fundamental feature of all the postmodernisms enumerated above: namely, the effacement in them of the older (essentially high-modernist) frontier between high culture and so-called mass or commercial culture, and the emergence of new kinds of texts infused with the forms, categories, and contents of that very culture industry so passionately denounced by all the ideologues of the modern, from Leavis and the American New Criticism all the way to Adorno and the Frankfurt School. The postmodernisms have, in fact, been fascinated precisely by this whole “degraded” landscape of schlock and kitsch, of TV series and Reader’s Digest culture, of advertising and motels, of the late show and the grade-B Hollywood film, of so-called paraliterature, with its airport paperback categories of the gothic and the romance, the popular biography, the murder mystery, and the science fiction or fantasy novel: materials they no longer simply “quote” as a Joyce or a Mahler might have done, but incorporate into their very substance.

Nor should the break in question be thought of as a purely cultural affair: indeed, theories of the postmodern – whether celebratory or couched in the language of moral revulsion and denunciation – bear a strong family resemblance to all those more ambitious sociological generalisations which, at much the same time bring us the news of the arrival and inauguration of a whole new type of society, most famously baptised “Postindustrial society” (Daniel Bell) but often also designated consumer society, media society, information society, electronic society or high tech, and the like. Such theories have the obvious ideological mission of demonstrating, to their own relief, that the new social formation in question no longer obeys the laws of classical capitalism, namely, the primacy of industrial production and the omnipresence of class struggle. The Marxist tradition has therefore resisted them with vehemence, with the signal except on of the economist Ernest Mandel, whose book Late Capitalism sets out not merely to anatomise the historic originality of this new society (which he sees as a third stage or moment in the evolution of capital) but also to demonstrate that it is, if an thing, a purer stage of capitalism than any of the moments that preceded it. I will return to t is argument later; suffice it for the moment to anticipate a point that will be argued in Chapter 2, namely, that every position on postmodernism in culture – whether apologia or stigmatisation – is also at one and the same time, and necessarily, an implicitly or explicitly political stance on the nature of multinational capitalism today.

A last preliminary word on method: what follows is not to be read as stylistic description, as the account of one cultural style or movement among others. I have rather meant to offer a periodising hypothesis, and that at a moment in which the very conception of historical periodisation has come to seem most problematical indeed. I have argued elsewhere that all isolated or discrete cultural analysis always involves a buried or repressed theory of historical periodisation; in any case, the conception of the “genealogy” largely lays to rest traditional theoretical worries about so-called linear history, theories of “stages,” and teleological historiography. In the present context, however, lengthier theoretical discussion of such (very real) issues can perhaps be replaced by a few substantive remarks.

One of the concerns frequently aroused by periodising hypotheses is that these tend to obliterate difference and to project an idea of the historical period as massive homogeneity (bounded on either side by inexplicable chronological metamorphoses and punctuation marks). This is, however, precisely why it seems to me essential to grasp postmodernism not as a style but rather as a cultural dominant: a conception which allows for the presence and coexistence of a range of very different, yet subordinate, features.

Consider, for example, the powerful alternative position that postmodernism is itself little more than one more stage of modernism proper (if not, indeed, of the even older romanticism); it may indeed be conceded that all the features of postmodernism I am about to enumerate can be detected, full-blown, in this or that preceding modernism (including such astonishing genealogical precursors as Gertrude Stein, Raymond Roussel, or Marcel Duchamp, who may be considered outright postmodernists, avant la lettre). What has not been taken into account by this view, however, is the social position of the older modernism, or better still, its passionate repudiation by an older Victorian and post-Victorian bourgeoisie for whom its forms and ethos are received as being variously ugly, dissonant, obscure, scandalous, immoral, subversive, and generally “antisocial.” It will be argued here, however, that a mutation in the sphere of culture has rendered such attitudes archaic. Not only are Picasso and Joyce no longer ugly, they now strike us, on the whole, as rather “realistic,” and this is the result of a canonisation and academic institutionalisation of the modern movement generally that can be to the late 1950s. This is surety one of the most plausible explanations for the emergence of postmodernism itself, since the younger generation of the 1960s will now confront the formerly oppositional modern movement as a set of dead classics, which “weigh like a nightmare on the brains of the living,” as Marx once said in a different context.

As for the postmodern revolt against all that, however, it must equally be stressed that its own offensive features – from obscurity and sexually explicit material to psychological squalor and overt expressions of social and political defiance, which transcend anything that might have been imagined at the most extreme moments of high modernism – no longer scandalise anyone and are not only received with the greatest complacency but have themselves become institutionalised and are at one with the official or public culture of Western society.

What has happened is that aesthetic production today has become integrated into commodity production generally: the frantic economic urgency of producing fresh waves of ever more novel-seeming goods (from clothing to aeroplanes), at ever greater rates of turnover, now assigns an increasingly essential structural function and position to aesthetic innovation and experimentation. Such economic necessities then find recognition in the varied kinds of institutional support available for the newer art, from foundations and grants to museums and other forms of patronage. Of all the arts, architecture is the closest constitutively to the economic, with which, in the form of commissions and land values, it has a virtually unmediated relationship. It will therefore not be surprising to find the extraordinary flowering of the new postmodern architecture grounded in the patronage of multinational business, whose expansion and development is strictly contemporaneous with it. Later I will suggest that these two new phenomena have an even deeper dialectical interrelationship than the simple one-to-one financing of this or that individual project. Yet this is the point at which I must remind the reader of the obvious; namely, that this whole global, yet American, postmodern culture is the internal and superstructural expression of a whole new wave of American military and economic domination throughout the world: in this sense, as throughout class history, the underside of culture is blood, torture, death, and terror.

The first point to be made about the conception of periodisation in dominance, therefore, is that even if all the constitutive features of postmodernism were identical with and coterminous to those of an older modernism – a position I feel to be demonstrably erroneous but which only an even lengthier analysis of modernism proper could dispel the two phenomena would still remain utterly distinct in their meaning antisocial function, owing to the very different positioning of postmodernism in the economic system of late capital and, beyond that, to the transformation of the very sphere of culture in contemporary society.

This point will be further discussed at the conclusion of this book. I must now briefly address a different kind of objection to periodisation, a concern about its possible obliteration of heterogeneity, one most often expressed by the Left. And it is certain that there is a strange quasi-Sartrean irony – a “winner loses” logic which tends to surround any effort to describe a “system,” a totalising dynamic, as these are detected in the movement of contemporary society. What happens is that the more powerful the vision of some increasingly total system or logic – the Foucault of the prisons book is the obvious example – the more powerless the reader comes to feel. Insofar as the theorist wins, therefore, by constructing an increasingly closed and terrifying machine, to that very degree he loses, since the critical capacity of his work is thereby paralysed, and the impulses of negation and revolt, not to speak of those of social transformation, are increasingly perceived as vain and trivial in the face of the model itself.

I have felt, however, that it was only in the light of some conception of a dominant cultural logic or hegemonic norm that genuine difference could be measured and assessed. I am very far from feeling that all cultural production today is postmodern in the broad sense I will be conferring on this term. The postmodern is, however, the force field in which very different kinds of cultural impulses – what Raymond Williams has usefully termed “residual” and “emergent” forms of cultural production – must make their way. If we do not achieve some general sense of a cultural dominant, then we fall back into a view of present history as sheer heterogeneity, random difference, a coexistence of a host of distinct forces whose effectivity is undecidable. At any rate, this has been the political spirit in which the following analysis was devised: to project some conception of a new systematic cultural norm and its reproduction in order to reflect more adequately on the most effective forms of any radical cultural politics today.

The exposition will take up in turn the following constitutive features of the postmodern: a new depthlessness, which finds its prolongation both in contemporary “theory” and in a whole new culture of the image or the simulacrum; a consequent weakening of historicity, both in our relationship to public History and in the new forms of our private temporality, whose “schizophrenic” structure (following Lacan) will determine new types of syntax or syntagmatic relationships in the more temporal arts; a whole new type of emotional ground tone – what I will call “intensities” – which can best be grasped by a return to older theories of the sublime; the deep constitutive relationships of all this to a whole new technology, which is itself a figure for a whole new economic world system; and, after a brief account of postmodernist mutations in the lived experience of built space itself, some reflections on the mission of political art in the bewildering new world space of late or multinational capital.


 

Postmodernism, or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism Verso, 1991.

 

VI

The conception of postmodernism outlined here is a historical rather than a merely stylistic one. I cannot stress too greatly the radical distinction between a view for which the postmodern is one (optional) style among many others available and one which seeks to grasp it as the cultural dominant of the logic of late capitalism: the two approaches in fact generate two very different ways of conceptualising the phenomenon as a whole: on the one hand, moral judgments (about which it is indifferent whether they are positive or negative), and, on the other, a genuinely dialectical attempt to think our present of time in History.

Of some positive moral evaluation of postmodernism little needs to be said: the complacent (yet delirious) camp-following celebration of this aesthetic new world (including its social and economic dimension, greeted with equal enthusiasm under the slogan of “postindustrial society”) is surely unacceptable, although it may be somewhat less obvious that current fantasies about the salvational nature of high technology, from chips to robots – fantasies entertained not only by both left and right governments in distress but also by many intellectuals – are also essentially of a piece with more vulgar apologies for postmodernism.

But in that case it is only consequent to reject moralising condemnations of the postmodern and of its essential triviality when juxtaposed against the Utopian “high seriousness” of the great modernisms: judgments one finds both on the Left and on the radical Right. And no doubt the logic of the simulacrum, with its transformation of older realities into television images, does more than merely replicate the logic of late capitalism; it reinforces and intensifies it. Meanwhile, for political groups which seek actively to intervene in history and to modify its otherwise passive momentum (whether with a view toward channelling it into a socialist transformation of society or diverting it into the regressive re-establishment of some simpler fantasy past), there cannot but be much that is deplorable and reprehensible in a cultural form of image addiction which, by transforming the past into visual mirages, stereotypes, or texts, effectively abolishes any practical sense of the future and of the collective project, thereby abandoning the thinking of future change to fantasies of sheer catastrophe and inexplicable cataclysm, from visions of “terrorism” on the social level to those of cancer on the personal. Yet if postmodernism is a historical phenomenon, then the attempt to conceptualise it in terms of moral or moralising judgments must finally be identified as a category mistake. All of which becomes more obvious when we interrogate the position of the cultural critic and moralist; the latter, along with all the rest of us, is now so deeply immersed in postmodernist space, so deeply suffused and infected by its new cultural categories, that the luxury of the old-fashioned ideological critique, the indignant moral denunciation of the other, becomes unavailable.

The distinction I am proposing here knows one canonical form in Hegel’s differentiation of the thinking of individual morality or moralising from that whole very different realm of collective social values and practices. But it finds its definitive form in Marx’s demonstration of the materialist dialectic, most notably in those classic pages of the Manifesto which teach the hard lesson of some more genuinely dialectical way to think historical development and change. The topic of the lesson is, of course, the historical development of capitalism itself and the deployment of a specific bourgeois culture. In a well-known passage Marx powerfully urges us to do the impossible, namely, to think this development positively and negatively all at once; to achieve, in other words, a type of thinking that would be capable of grasping the demonstrably baleful features of capitalism along with its extraordinary and liberating dynamism simultaneously within a single thought, and without attenuating any of the force of either judgment. We are somehow to lift our minds to a point at which it is possible to understand that capitalism is at one and the same time the best thing that has ever happened to the human race, and the worst.

The lapse from this austere dialectical imperative into the more comfortable stance of the taking of moral positions is inveterate and all too human: still, the urgency of the subject demands that we make at least some effort to think the cultural evolution of late capitalism dialectically, as catastrophe and progress all together.

Such an effort suggests two immediate questions, with which we will conclude these reflections. Can we in fact identify some “moment of truth” within the more evident “moments of falsehood” of postmodern culture? And, even if we can do so, is there not something ultimately paralysing in the dialectical view of historical development proposed above; does it not tend to demobilise us and to surrender us to passivity and helplessness by systematically obliterating possibilities of action under the impenetrable fog of historical inevitability? It is appropriate to discuss these two (related) issues in terms of current possibilities for some effective contemporary cultural politics and for the construction of a genuine political culture.

To focus the problem in this way is, of course, immediately to raise the more genuine issue of the fate of culture generally, and of the function of culture specifically, as one social level or instance, in the postmodern era. Everything in the previous discussion suggests that what we have been calling postmodernism is inseparable from, and unthinkable without the hypothesis of, some fundamental mutation of the sphere of culture in the world of late capitalism which includes a momentous modification of its social function. Older discussions of the space, function, or sphere of culture (mostly notably Herbert Marcuse’s classic essay The Affirmative Character of Culture) have insisted on what a different language would call the “semi-autonomy” of the cultural realm: its ghostly, yet Utopian, existence, for good or ill, above the practical world of the existent, whose mirror image it throws back in forms which vary from the legitimations of flattering resemblance to the contestatory indictments of critical satire or Utopian pain.

What we must now ask ourselves is whether it is not precisely this semi-autonomy of the cultural sphere which has been destroyed by the logic of late capitalism. Yet to argue that culture is today no longer endowed with the relative autonomy it once enjoyed as one level among others in earlier moments of capitalism (let alone in pre-capitalist societies) is not necessarily to imply its disappearance or extinction. Quite the contrary; we must go on to affirm that the dissolution of an autonomous sphere of culture is rather to be imagined in terms of an explosion: a prodigious expansion of culture throughout the social realm, to the point at which everything in our social life – from economic value and state power to practices and to the very structure of the psyche itself – can be said to have become “cultural” in some original and yet untheorised sense. This proposition is, however, substantively quite consistent with the previous diagnosis of a society of the image or the simulacrum and a transformation of the “real” into so many pseudo-events.

It also suggests that some of our most cherished and time-honoured radical conceptions about the nature of cultural politics may thereby find themselves outmoded. However distinct those conceptions – which range from slogans of negativity, opposition, and subversion to critique and reflexivity – may have been, they all shared a single, fundamentally spatial, presupposition, which may be resumed in the equally time-honoured formula of “critical distance.” No theory of cultural politics current on the Left today has been able to do without one notion or another of a certain minimal aesthetic distance, of the possibility of the positioning of the cultural act outside the massive Being of capital, from which to assault this last. What the burden of our preceding demonstration suggests, however, is that distance in general (including “critical distance” in particular) has very precisely been abolished in the new space of postmodernism. We are submerged in its henceforth filled and suffused volumes to the point where our now postmodern bodies are bereft of spatial coordinates and practically (let alone theoretically) incapable of distantiation; meanwhile, it has already been observed how the prodigious new expansion of multinational capital ends up penetrating and colonising those very pre-capitalist enclaves (Nature and the Unconscious) which offered extraterritorial and Archimedean footholds for critical effectivity. The shorthand language of co-optation is for this reason omnipresent on the left, but would now seem to offer a most inadequate theoretical basis for understanding a situation in which we all, in one way or another, dimly feel that not only punctual and local counter-culture forms of cultural resistance and guerrilla warfare but also even overtly political interventions like those of The Clash are all somehow secretly disarmed and reabsorbed by a system of which they themselves might well be considered a part, since they can achieve no distance from it.

What we must now affirm is that it is precisely this whole extraordinarily demoralising and depressing original new global space which is the “moment of truth” of postmodernism. What has been called the postmodernist “sublime” is only the moment in which this content has become most explicit, has moved the closest to the surface of consciousness as a coherent new type of space in its own right – even though a certain figural concealment or disguise is still at work here, most notably in the high-tech thematics in which the new spatial content is still dramatised and articulated. Yet the earlier features of the postmodern which were enumerated above can all now be seen as themselves partial (yet constitutive) aspects of the same general spatial object.

The argument for a certain authenticity in these otherwise patently ideological productions depends on the prior proposition that what we have been calling postmodern (or multinational) space is not merely a cultural ideology or fantasy but has genuine historical (and socioeconomic) reality as a third great original expansion of capitalism around the globe (after the earlier expansions of the national market and the older imperialist system, which each had their own cultural specificity and generated new types of space appropriate to their dynamics). The distorted and unreflexive attempts of newer cultural production to explore and to express this new space must then also, in their own fashion, be considered as so many approaches to the representation of (a new) reality (to use a more antiquated language). As paradoxical as the terms may seem, they may thus, following a classic interpretive option, be read as peculiar new forms of realism (or at least of the mimesis of reality), while at the same time they can equally well be analysed as so many attempts to distract and divert us from that reality or to disguise its contradictions and resolve them in the guise of various formal mystifications.
As for that reality itself, however – the as yet untheorised original space of some new “world system” of multinational or late capitalism, a space whose negative or baleful aspects are only too obvious – the dialectic requires us to hold equally to a positive or “progressive” evaluation of its emergence, as Marx did for the world market as the horizon of national economies, or as Lenin did for the older imperialist global network. For neither Marx nor Lenin was socialism a matter of returning to smaller (and thereby less repressive and comprehensive) systems of social organisation; rather, the dimensions attained by capital in their own times were grasped as the promise, the framework, and the precondition for the achievement of some new and more comprehensive socialism. Is this not the case with the yet more global and totalising space of the new world system, which demands the intervention and elaboration of an internationalism of a radically new type? The disastrous realignment of socialist revolution with the older nationalisms (not only in Southeast Asia), whose results have necessarily aroused much serious recent left reflection, can be adduced in support of this position.

But if all this is so, then at least one possible form of a new radical cultural politics becomes evident, with a final aesthetic proviso that must quickly be noted. Left cultural producers and theorists – particularly those formed by bourgeois cultural traditions issuing from romanticism and valorising spontaneous, instinctive, or unconscious forms of “genius,” but also for very obvious historical reasons such as Zhdanovism and the sorry consequences of political and party interventions in the arts have often by reaction allowed themselves to be unduly intimidated by the repudiation, in bourgeois aesthetics and most notably in high modernism, of one of the age-old functions of art – the pedagogical and the didactic. The teaching function of art was, however, always stressed in classical times (even though it there mainly took the form of moral lessons), while the prodigious and still imperfectly understood work of Brecht reaffirms, in a new and formally innovative and original way, for the moment of modernism proper, a complex new conception of the relationship between culture and pedagogy.

The cultural model I will propose similarly foregrounds the cognitive and pedagogical dimensions of political art and culture, dimensions stressed in very different ways by both Lukacs and Brecht (for the distinct moments of realism and modernism, respectively).

We cannot, however, return to aesthetic practices elaborated on the basis of historical situations and dilemmas which are no longer ours. Meanwhile, the conception of space that has been developed here suggests that a model of political culture appropriate to our own situation will necessarily have to raise spatial issues as its fundamental organising concern. I will therefore provisionally define the aesthetic of this new (and hypothetical) cultural form as an aesthetic of cognitive mapping.
In a classic work, The Image of the City, Kevin Lynch taught us that the alienated city is above all a space in which people are unable to map (in their minds) either their own positions or the urban totality in which they find themselves: grids such as those of Jersey City, in which none of the traditional markers (monuments, nodes, natural boundaries, built perspectives) obtain, are the most obvious examples. Disalienation in the traditional city, then, involves the practical reconquest of a sense of place and the construction or reconstruction of an articulated ensemble which can be retained in memory and which the individual subject can map and remap along the moments of mobile, alternative trajectories. Lynch’s own work is limited by the deliberate restriction of his topic to the problems of city form as such; yet it becomes extraordinarily suggestive when projected outward onto some of the larger national and global spaces we have touched on here. Nor should it be too hastily assumed that his model – while it clearly raises very central issues of representation as such – is in any way easily vitiated by the conventional poststructural critiques of the “ideology of representation” or mimesis. The cognitive map is not exactly mimetic in that older sense; indeed, the theoretical issues it poses allow us to renew the analysis of representation on a higher and much more complex level.

There is, for one thing, a most interesting convergence between the empirical problems studied by Lynch in terms of city space and the great Althusserian (and Lacanian) redefinition of ideology as “the representation of the subject’s Imaginary relationship to his or her Real conditions of existence.” Surely this is exactly what the cognitive map is called upon to do in the narrower framework of daily life in the physical city: to enable a situational representation on the part of the individual subject to that vaster and properly unrepresentable totality which is the ensemble of society’s structures as a whole.

Yet Lynch’s work also suggests a further line of development insofar as cartography itself constitutes its key mediatory instance. A return to the history of this science (which is also an art) shows us that Lynch’s model does not yet, in fact, really correspond to what will become map-making. Lynch’s subjects are rather clearly involved in pre-cartographic operations whose results traditionally are described as itineraries rather than as maps: diagrams organised around the still subject-centred or existential journey of the traveller, along which various significant key features are marked oases, mountain ranges, rivers, monuments, and the like. The most highly developed form of such diagrams is the nautical itinerary, the sea chart, or portulans, where coastal features are noted for the use of Mediterranean navigators who rarely venture out into the open sea.

Yet the compass at once introduces a new dimension into sea charts, a dimension that will utterly transform the problematic of the itinerary and allow us to pose the problem of a genuine cognitive mapping in a far more complex way. For the new instruments - compass, sextant, and theodolite – correspond not merely to new geographic and navigational problems (the difficult matter of determining longitude, particularly on the curving surface of the planet, as opposed to the simpler matter of latitude, which European navigators can still empirically determine by ocular inspection of the African coast); they also introduce a whole new coordinate: the relationship to the totality, particularly as it is mediated by the stars and by new operations like that of triangulation. At this point, cognitive mapping in the broader sense comes to require the coordination of existential data (the empirical position of the subject) with unlived, abstract conceptions of the geographic totality.
Finally, with the first globe (1490) and the invention of the Mercator projection at about the same time, yet a third dimension of cartography emerges, which at once involves what we would today call the nature of representational codes, the intrinsic structures of the various media, the intervention, into more naive mimetic conceptions of mapping, of the whole new fundamental question of the languages of representation itself, in particular the unresolvable (well-nigh Heisenbergian) dilemma of the transfer of curved space to flat charts. At this point it becomes clear that there can be no true maps (at the same time it also becomes clear that there can be scientific progress, or better still, a dialectical advance, in the various historical moments of map-making).

Transcoding all this now into the very different problematic of the Althusserian definition of ideology, one would want to make two points. The first is that the Althusserian concept now allows us to rethink these specialised geographical and cartographic issues in terms of social space – in terms, for example, of social class and national or international context, in terms of the ways in which we all necessarily also cognitively map our individual social relationship to local, national, and international class realities. Yet to reformulate the problem in this way is also to come starkly up against those very difficulties in mapping which are posed in heightened and original ways by that very global space of the postmodernist or multinational moment which has been under discussion here. These are not merely theoretical issues; they have urgent practical political consequences, as is evident from the conventional feelings of First World subjects that existentially (or “empirically”) they really do inhabit a “postindustrial society” from which traditional production has disappeared and in which social classes of the classical type no longer exist – a conviction which has immediate effects on political praxis.

The second point is that a return to the Lacanian underpinnings of Althusser’s theory can afford some useful and suggestive methodological enrichments. Althusser’s formulation remobilises an older and henceforth classical Marxian distinction between science and ideology that is not without value for us even today. The existential – the positioning of the individual subject, the experience of daily life, the monadic “point of view” on the world to which we are necessarily, as biological subjects, restricted – is in Althusser’s formula implicitly opposed to the realm of abstract knowledge, a realm which, as Lacan reminds us, is never positioned in or actualised by any concrete subject but rather by that structural void called le sujet supposé savoir (the subject supposed to know), a subject-place of knowledge. What is affirmed is not that we cannot know the world and its totality in some abstract or “scientific” way. Marxian “science” provides just such a way of knowing and conceptualising the world abstractly, in the sense in which, for example, Mandel’s great book offers a rich and elaborated knowledge of that global world system, of which it has never been said here that it was unknowable but merely that it was unrepresentable, which is a very different matter. The Althusserian formula, in other words, designates a gap, a rift, between existential experience and scientific knowledge. Ideology has then the function of somehow inventing a way of articulating those two distinct dimensions with each other. What a historicist view of this definition would want to add is that such coordination, the production of functioning and living ideologies, is distinct in different historical situations, and, above all, that there may be historical situations in which it is not possible at all – and this would seem to be our situation in the current crisis.

But the Lacanian system is threefold, and not dualistic. To the Marxian-Althusserian opposition of ideology and science correspond only two of Lacan’s tripartite functions: the Imaginary and the Real, respectively.
Our digression on cartography, however, with its final revelation of a properly representational dialectic of the codes and capacities of individual languages or media, reminds us that what has until now been omitted was the dimension of the Lacanian Symbolic itself.

An aesthetic of cognitive mapping – a pedagogical political culture which seeks to endow the individual subject with some new heightened sense of its place in the global system – will necessarily have to respect this now enormously complex representational dialectic and invent radically new forms in order to do it justice. This is not then, clearly, a call for a return to some older kind of machinery, some older and more transparent national space, or some more traditional and reassuring perspectival or mimetic enclave: the new political art (if it is possible at all) will have to hold to the truth of postmodernism, that is to say, to its fundamental object – the world space of multinational capital – at the same time at which it achieves a breakthrough to some as yet unimaginable new mode of representing this last, in which we may again begin to grasp our positioning as individual and collective subjects and regain a capacity to act and struggle which is at present neutralised by our spatial as well as our social confusion. The political form of postmodernism, if there ever is any, will have as its vocation the invention and projection of a global cognitive mapping, on a social as well as a spatial scale.


In his most wide-ranging and accessible work, Frederic Jameson argues that postmodernism is the cultural response to the latest systemic change in world capitalism. He seeks here to crystallize a definition of a term which has taken on so many meanings that it has virtually lost all historical significance.

https://www.bookdepository.com/Postmodernism-or-The-Cultural-Logic-of-Late-Capitalism-Fredric-Jameson/9780822310907/?a_aid=dbclubHe presents an extensive discussion on the cultural landscape - both ‘high' and ‘low' - of postmodernity, evaluating the political fortunes of the new term and surveying postmodern developments in a range of different fields - from market ideology to architecture, from painting and instalment art to contemporary punk film, from video art and high literature to deconstruction.
Finally, Jameson revaluates the concept of postmodernism in light of postmodern critiques of totalization and historical narratives - from the notion of decadence to the dynamics of small groups, from religious fundamentalism to hi-tech science fiction - while touching on the nature of contemporary cultural critique and the possibilities of cognitive mapping in the present multinational world system.

This provocative book will be fundamental to all future discussions of postmodernism.

Reading Žižek – Where to Start?



Slavoj Žižek : Events Calendar

Slavoj Žižek: Capitalism is reaching its limits

In his speeches he jumps from Habermas to 'The Hunger Games', his rehearsals are sales successes and his audience lined up to listen to him. The Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek believes that today, more than ever, major metaphysical questions are of interest because technology is changing what it means to be human.

The philosopher embarked on a series of lectures in Spain in which he speaks of what he calls the 'Aireapocalipsis', or the set of signs that, for him, indicate that humanity is at a point where it must change the way Which is following.



Will machines control humans?

I do not say that the machines will control us, there is still much to go, but they are changing what it means to be human. So far we have believed that reality was outside, separate from us, but that is changing: the brain can connect with a machine. Stephen Hawking no longer needs his hands to handle his computer, he does it directly with his brain.


How do you see the relationship between humans and machines?

We are entering a new era. For example, look at what happens in clinics in the suburbs of Shanghai to which Western couples come to select their embryos genetically. The head of the Chinese Academy of Biogenetics when I met him gave me a pamphlet stating that his task was to control the physical well-being and "underlining" the mental word of the people. I thought, 'My God, they are already doing it': control of impulses, anxiety. There is a future that troubles me a lot of a society of control, in which citizens are constantly watched and a new division of classes even stronger: privileged and slaves. A class that will not only come socially determined but also biologically, as in recent films like 'Elysium' or 'The Hunger Games' saga, which drew those divisions.


What do you think about such a scenario?

Capitalism, as we know it, is reaching its limits. We need large regulatory structures to deal with global warming, desertification, refugees, biogenetics, and these structures can not be States. We have to think of some species of public bureaucratic bodies in which there would be experts on all these issues that are of great importance to the whole world, but also randomly selected members, as in popular juries.

The question is who would control those entities. As you know, bureaucracy works best if you feel terrified. Stalin had a good idea when it occurred to him to terrorize not only ordinary people but also bureaucrats. In an ideal state you can be an influential bureaucrat, but you know that sooner or later you may lose your head.


Is not it that you defend Stalin, or yes?

No, I'm just putting an example of something that worked in his dictatorial regime, which is different.


What do you think of the European left as the groups we can in Spain?

I'm puzzled because I still do not know, and I fear they do not know either, what they want once in power.


And the Latin American left?

The left in general throughout the world is still in deep crisis, and the only thing that can save us is a new left. The protests that erupted everywhere two or three years ago, was clear against what they were. But in favor of what? A Keynesian Idea? A reform of capitalism? I can throw questions, show what does not work today, outline problems, but I have no concrete answers.


Do you believe in the idea that people are becoming more superficial and are not willing to read, for example, works like yours?

There is a substantial audience for theoretical and thought works. It is not true that we live superficial times in which nobody reads or deepens.


From El Pais

Reading Žižek – Where to Start?



Slavoj Žižek : Events Calendar

Freud Lives! Slavoj Žižek and Stephen Grosz in conversation - 5th Oct 2017, London



We are often told that psychoanalysis is dead. Outdated scientifically, in that the Freudian model of the mind has been superseded by neurobiology; outdated clinically, where the talking cure has lost ground to drug treatment or behavioural therapy; outdated socially, where the idea that we are repressed by the norms of others is no longer stocked in today’s supermarket of free choices.

But perhaps the moment of psychoanalysis has only just arrived. At a time when we are bombarded on all sides by the injunction to ‘Enjoy!’, it is a unique space in which we are released from such pressures. The psychoanalytic encounter allows one person to feel alive in the mind of another, whatever the consequences. Neither a cure nor a cure-all, it changes those who experience it, sometimes by helping them to understand why they cannot change.

Slavoj Žižek and Stephen Grosz – a dazzling theorist and a renowned practitioner – have urgent stories to tell us about ourselves and the present state of our wishes: the wish for a trouble-free existence, and for therapies which can instantly return us to everyday reality, or unreality; the wish for science to explain our minds, or explain them away…

Discovering the unconscious at work in psychic life, Freud showed that the ego is not master in its own house, that we do not know our own minds. This is a truth with no sell-by date, and Freud’s insights are alive today more than ever.

Thu, 5th Oct 2017 6:45pm – 8:00pm

Venue:
Emmanuel Centre
9-23 Marsham Street
London SW1P 3DW

Book here.




Stephen Grosz

Stephen Grosz is a practicing psychoanalyst - he has worked with patients for more than twenty-five years. Born in America, he was educated at the University of California, Berkeley, and at Oxford University, and now lives in London. The Examined Life has been translated into more than twenty languages and was longlisted for the Guardian First Book Award.

Reading Žižek – Where to Start?



Slavoj Žižek : Events Calendar

Transcendental Subjectivity, Sexual Difference, Brain Sciences - A Masterclass with Slavoj Zizek


October 4 - 6, 2017 - Transcendental Subjectivity, Sexual Difference, Brain Sciences - A Masterclass with Slavoj Zizek - Birkbeck, University of London

Speaker: Slavoj Žižek, International Director, Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities

With the recent turn towards realism, the notion of transcendental subjectivity is (again) dismissed as philosophically outdated and politically harmful. Furthermore, the progress in brain sciences seems to render this notion irrelevant. But what if we still have to learn a lot from the transcendental approach? The two classes will examine how Lacan's teaching enables us to grasp sexual difference as the constitutive feature of transcendental subjectivity, plus how recent advances in brain sciences continue to rely on transcendental presuppositions. The question to be discussed is: how will the new results of brain sciences, as well as the digitalization of our lives, affect subjectivity, especially in its political dimension?

The Masterclass will be spread over two sessions:

1. Wednesday 4 October, 2-4pm
2. Friday 6 October, 2-4pm

Book Your Place.


Reading Žižek – Where to Start?



Slavoj Žižek : Events Calendar

Slavoj Zizek talking about his intimate psychoanalytic episodes with Jacques-Alain Miller



Jacques-Alain Miller on Slavoj Žižek:

“So you remember that Freud asked himself the famous question, “What do women want?” As a man, he asked himself this question; and perhaps as a woman too. We do not have the answer, in spite of thirty years of Lacan’s teaching. We tried. So it’s not a discriminating question. I have another question, which has been troubling me for years, which is —What do Americans want?—I have the answer! A partial answer. They want Slavoj Zizek! They want the Lacan of Slavoj Zizek. They like it better than the Lacan of the Freudian Field, for the time being perhaps. The question is, do they want very definite concepts? Or do they want some room to wrangle? Some negotiating space? And that is the case with the concepts of psychoanalysis.”

from Ordinary Psychosis lacanian ink 46



See also




Reading Žižek – Where to Start?



Slavoj Žižek: "My tastes are surprisingly traditional"

The philosopher Slavoj Žižek in front of the critic Fernando Castro Flórez. Time to dig into the more human side of the Slovenian theorist, while talking about art, music, literature and television series


In the context of the exhibition «NSK. From the Kapital to the Capital ", which the Reina Sofía Museum dedicates to this Slovenian collective, and in response to a joint invitation from the center and the Círculo de Bellas Artes , the philosopher Slavoj Žižek (Ljubljana, 1949) passed through Madrid to give two lectures on The various deaths and resurrections of the fascist ghost. A perfect moment for the critic Fernando Castro to chat with him ... of many other things.

We are talking at the Reina Sofía Museum and I would like to know your relationship with contemporary art.

I think I'm going to disappoint you terribly. I am a "conservative modernist." I still think - and it is horrible what I am going to say - that the great event in the art world was the first European modernism. Schonberg, in the world of music ...

Malevich, in art.

Malevich and all that generation. The idea that postmodernism did away with modernism is not true, we are still in the shadow of these events. We have not passed that time. My tastes are surprisingly traditional. People are totally wrong when they think they reached the lowest level with "Black Square". No: for him, that was the zero point, the starting point. I greatly admire his late paintings, which people misunderstand as their submission to Stalinism. They are not. They are creations that follow the minimal reduction, even those apparently Stalinist, like the final paintings of women. They are works of a genius.

You have written a few times about Duchamp.

Yes, but they were rather standard things. Although I had an interesting debate in China about him, in which people did not understand what he meant. "You have a urinal, you expose it and it becomes a work of art, does not it?" I asked the curator of a museum: "What would happen if I went on stage and pissed?" He said to me, "You would be vulgar because you would show that you did not understand the work. This is a work of art, it is no longer an object to be used for that purpose. " Do you know what my answer was ?: "But what if I say that I am a performer and that the act of urinating is therefore a work of art, a performance?"

This has already been done, in fact. Pierre Pinoncelli urinated and then destroyed the Duchampian urinal in 1993.

Something that is crucial-and perhaps that brings us closer to what I know about art theory and abstract art-is that I've always had problems with Jackson Pollock because I'm fanatically anti-alcoholic and I hate all those artists who get drunk, Paint a couple of colors and then go saying they have composed a masterpiece. My idea of ​​artist is Mark Rothko . It is absolutely ethical, his paintings darken more and more, and you can almost predict just by looking at them that he would commit suicide in the end. I can also tolerate Hopper, who is often dismissed as realistic. One realizes that he did a miracle, produced apparently realistic pictures, but that can only be understood in the context of abstraction. This is what I admire about modern art. The really difficult thing is to return to some form of realism,

And in modern literature, what are your preferences?

For me, there are three great writers from Western Europe. Beckett, in front of Joyce, who is a pain in the ass, a snob, a narcissist. "Finnegans Wake" is horrible. He acknowledged that he wrote it so that literary critics would have four hundred years of work. Fuck you! I do not mess with that for one day. Beckett was the real genius.

"Endgame," a masterpiece.

Yes and all the others, for example, Not I. Then comes Kafka, who nobody wins in their game. He understood the obscenely sexual dimension of bureaucracy. And finally, Platonov, a teacher whom I consider the Malevich of literature.

But this is quite peculiar because you are interested in video games and the most current cyber culture, but then, in art, you stay in modernity and in the first avant-gardes.

I just can not do it all. For example, for some time I tried to follow modern music. But I must admit that I have limitations in this field, I tried to follow the best I could to Boulez and Stockhausen. In the field of modern music, I like the most is Hanns Eisler . At the same time that he wrote the GDR anthem, he composed wonderful pieces. It represented an almost impossible combination: an Orthodox Communist, both a faithful follower of Schonberg and atonal experimentation.

The case of the Slovenian group Laibach is significant because they enjoy fascist overidentification. To a certain extent, they remind me of Chaplin's "Great Dictator," when he turns Hitler's speeches into strange sounds in which we only understand some vulgarities. To do so is much more subversive than rationally criticizing Hitler. You copy as faithfully as possible, and, in this way, make it completely ridiculous. But at the same time this is very serious. Laibach are not liberals who imitate and criticize totalitarianism. On the contrary, they confront us with a very unpleasant fact: that we all enjoy identifying ourselves with totalitarian rituals.

Are you interested in the "Black Mirror" series?

It is one of the best. Do you know which episode I like best? The first of the second season, which is about a society where every time you meet someone or call someone, they put a rating, a note. From this emerges certain standards for social control. This may seem like a utopia, but it is already happening with Google. We can learn from "Black Mirror" that we are approaching a type of control society, although I am not so pessimistic at this point. Yes: we can be controlled, but it does not stop to amaze me how stupid computers are. They know everything, but they have too much data.

From ABC Culture (ES)

Reading Žižek – Where to Start?



Zizek on the Beach

with Udi Aloni ♡



Zizek's Book "Living In The End Times"

Žižek analyzes the end of the world at the hands of the “four riders of the apocalypse.”

There should no longer be any doubt: global capitalism is fast approaching its terminal crisis. Slavoj Žižek has identified the four horsemen of this coming apocalypse: the worldwide ecological crisis; imbalances within the economic system; the biogenetic revolution; and exploding social divisions and ruptures. But, he asks, if the end of capitalism seems to many like the end of the world, how is it possible for Western society to face up to the end times?



https://www.bookdepository.com/Living-in-the-End-Times-Slavoj-I-Ek-Slavoj-Zizek/9781844677023/?a_aid=dbclub
“Every civilisation that disavows its barbarian potential has already capitulated to barbarism.”
― Slavoj Žižek, Living in the End Times

In a major new analysis of our global situation, Žižek argues that our collective responses to economic Armageddon correspond to the stages of grief: ideological denial, explosions of anger and attempts at bargaining, followed by depression and withdrawal.

For this edition, Žižek has written a long afterword that leaves almost no subject untouched, from WikiLeaks to the nature of the Chinese Communist Party.


Reading Žižek – Where to Start?



Renata Salecl: "The policy of choice as policy of violence"

Post Truth(?); Enjoyment; Trump, Alt Right - a backlash of attacking Political Correctness. ... And more ... Restructuring of the discourse - Left/Right.



“If an optimist had his left arm chewed off by an alligator, he might say in a pleasant and hopeful voice, "Well this isn't too bad, I don't have a left arm anymore but at least nobody will ever ask me if I'm left-handed or right-handed," but most of us would say something more along the lines of, "Aaaaaa! My arm! My arm!”

"The Question Man" a parody where the answers were given first, followed by the question:

"Malaise of civilization and malaise of the individual go hand in hand. Social changes thus affect the symptoms of malaise people suffer from and the new symptoms people develop, of course, affect society as a whole.

In the last decade, there have been many debates in psychoanalytic circles about how social changes that we experience in postindustrial capitalism affect individuals. The ideology of postindustrial capitalism has heavily relied on the idea of choice, freedom, self-determination, and endless progress. The underside of this ideology, however, has been an increase in anxiety and in the individual's feelings of inadequacy, and guilt for not making it in today's world. Until very recently, the ideology of choice has actually functioned very well to prevent any questioning about possible social change. The individual was rather engaged in constant self-change—often to the point of self- destruction.

Identification with the ideology of choice has, on the one hand, contributed to the formation of new psychological symptoms where people impose particular new forms of aggression toward themselves, while on the other hand, it has also encouraged various forms of social violence. The lecture will look at new cases of aggression that people are imposing onto themselves and others. It will also look at the way judicial system increasingly identifies with fictional accounts of violence as presented in films and TV dramas – especially when it searches for the truth about subjectivity in his or her genes or brain. In conclusion, the lecture will look at the power of ignorance and denial which play important role in the way violence becomes the underside of the ideology of choice."

Renata Salecl is a Slovenian philosopher, sociologist and legal theorist. She is a senior researcher at the Institute of Criminology, Faculty of Law at the University of Ljubljana, and holds a professorship at Birkbeck College, University of London. She has been a visiting professor at London School of Economics, lecturing on the topic of emotions and law. Every year she lectures at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law (New York), on Psychoanalysis and Law, and she has also been teaching courses on neuroscience and law. From 2012, furthermore, she is visiting professor at the Department of Social Science, Health and Medicine at King's College London.
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