Slavoj Zizek: Parallax View - dialectical way of thinking

Slavoj Zizek: The Parallax View



"Usually parallax means: when you change a little bit and what you see changes. The most simple parallax, obscene, would be: I remember when I was young, in those pre-digital times, you had those - not even holograms, more primitively- postcards on which you see a girl with a blouse and when you change it a little bit you see naked breasts. The object changes, but the change in the object is really just an effect of how you, as an observer, move. What I want to show, is that, nonetheless, this change is not simply subjective. It is an effect of a certain change in the object itself. Why did I pick up this term? To emphasize this incompatibility. When we are in ideology, we can look at things in radically different ways. And there is no all-encompassing larger narrative. For example, the idea of class struggle. Or not even class struggle. Let's take today's Middle East crisis: Israel - Palestine. You have the Israeli experience. They say: We just want to live here, they are rocketing us. But then, if you go to the other side, you hear a totally different story. And here I don't believe in this abstract humanism, this UNESCO type, United Nations: 'But let us tell a general story...'. No, there is no general story where there is a place for all of it. All there is at a general level is the logic of the struggle itself. We have incompatible perspectives. It is basically - to be honest - a new, slightly modern way to make the old Marxist point of social antagonism, class struggle or whatever. The idea being, again, that the gap is irreducible. It can not be overcome through some kind of a higher perspective. All we can do is to formulate the antagonism. To understand a certain society is to understand its antagonism, its contradiction, its deadlock. Here I remain a Marxist. On the other hand, this is what gives capitalism such dynamic. Capitalism is this miraculous system in which the more it is contradictory, the more it functions. Capitalism thrives from pulling itself out of crises. The more it is in crises, the more it explodes. This is why for certain traditional evolutionary Marxists it is always a problem. As you maybe know, already for over a hundred years, Marxists have claimed that capitalism is approaching its last stage of rotting, of falling apart. But the more capitalism is becoming rotten, is disintegrating, the better it functions. This is important. We have certain basic Marxist-Hegelian notions like contradiction, antagonism. The problem is how to precisely understand them. I think we were so corrupted by this standard Stalinist idea, where contradiction simply means the struggle of opposites, which seems to mean that there are always two sides: the good one, the bad one; 'we should support the progressive side', and so on. That has nothing to do with the proper Hegalian-Marxist notion of contradiction. The whole point of parallax is to reintroduce a more authentic dialectical way of thinking and to point to, especially today, where we are under this pressure of 'one global culture', 'we should understand each other'. No, here I am very brutal, but I think this is the true anti-racism. It is not that when I come to another country, I would like to understand you. No, I don't want to understand, and I can not understand everything. Here I agree with my conservative friend, Peter Sloterdijk, who is definitely not a left-winger. He said: 'we need today a new code of discretion'. Look, if you have a Muslim friend, it is stupid to expect that you should totally understand him. You never will. We need a superficial code of manners to treat each other respectfully, even without fully understanding ourselves. The lesson would have been: accept the distance. For example in ex-Yugoslavia, all those Western idiots came and said: 'You Bosnians and Serbs or Serbs and Albanians, why don't you understand each other, get closer...'. No! I claim: ignore each other, accept the distance. Accept the distance. There is something liberating in it. Maybe I am too misanthropic here, but I don't want to understand the whole world. There are cultures, which I consider stupid. I don't care. The problem is: how can you be a non-racist in accepting this. I claim that when we want to understand the other we are usually very racist. You want to penetrate the other to know everything. How can you understand the others, when the others don't understand themselves? We don't understand even ourselves. So again, maybe a little bit in a Nietzschean way, I want to reassert distance, ignorance, to accept that we don't have to be too close to each other, we don't have to understand each other. Accept distance. And then, selectively, we can be friends. Through obscenities and so on. So my message is still very politically incorrect. Instead of trying to understand everybody, pick up friends and talk dirty to them, make racist jokes and so on, and life will be much better."



Reading Žižek – Where to Start?

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