"Between the man of faith and the man of science, there is little difference: both guard against destructive chance and reconstitute the requirements of order; both appeal to a constant which they pray to or theorize about; both are men of accomodation and of unity for whom the other and the same are complementary. Speaking, writing, calculating, they are eternal conservers, conservers of eternity, always in quest of something stable, and pronouncing the word 'ontological' with confident fervor."
Blanchot,_The Writing of the Disaster_, 90
Slavoj Zizek bugs almost everyone. Frenetic, irrisponsible, albeit occasionally entertaining, he has been known to fabricate entire scenes from films to fit his theory. The cliché phrase, "fiercely unapologetic" was invented just for him. He plays the angry radical and the "master" - as if nobody else had ever bothered to read Hegel and Lacan for themselves. His style is one of habitual overstatement and polemic. Although he hasn't begun to read Derrida, he drags - intentionally, perhaps - the invective misnomers, "deconstructionism" and "deconstructionist" through the mud at every chance. Derrida, to my knowledge, has never mentioned Zizek (and most likely never will), but then Derrida only recently stopped replying to Habermas in sparse footnotes. (To be fair, Zizek might actually BE the only one who reads Lacan.)
But Zizek sometimes makes you work for your distance. And as wickedly addictive as polemics sometimes are, writing on Zizek can help re-establish this distance so one can sleep. Zizek refuses to separate the most ruthless violence (that done by the postmodern neo-Nazi) from the culture of 'liberal tolerance' and 'diversity.' Radical fanaticism goes hand in hand with neo-liberal democracy. Sort of the Trotsky and Wolfowitz syndrome, although that is doing Wolfowitz a favor. The obscene pleasure to be found in films such as _The Passion of the Christ_ and _Elephant_ (after Columbine) temporarily, addictively, disrupts and quavers the symbolic:
"One should link Rancière's notion of post-politics to the notion of excessive, non-functional cruelty as a feature of contemporary life, proposed by Balibar: a cruelty whose manifestations range from 'fundamentalist' racist and /or religious slaughter to the 'senseless' outbursts of violence by adolescents and the homeless in our megalopolises, a violence one is tempted to call Id-Evil, a violence grounded in no utilitarian or ideological reason...The neo-Nazi skinhead's ethnic violence is not the 'return of the repressed' of the liberal multiculturalist tolerance, but directly generated by it, its own concealed true face."
Zizek,_The Ticklish Subject_, 201-205
In _The Fragile Absolute_ (perhaps interesting to consider in relation to Derrida's _Gift of Death_), Zizek argues for a neo-Marxist agape - the Christian legacy being "too precious to be left to the New-Age freaks." But Zizek wants to gloss it every way, and his thoroughly psychoanalytic critique of this legacy is anything but convincing. In particular I am troubled by his reading of the word "suprasensible" - how can this be anything but fervently ontological?
"The distinction between APPEARANCE and the postmodern notion of SIMULACRUM as no longer clearly distinguishable from the Real is crucial here. The political as the domain of appearance...has nothing in common with the postmodern notion that we are entering the era of universalized simulacra in which reality itself becomes indistinguishable from its simulated double. The nostalgic longing for the authentic experience of being lost in the deluge of simulacra (detectable in Virilio), as well as the postmodern assertion of the Brave New World of universalized simulacra as the sign that we are finally getting rid of the metaphysical obsession with authentic Being (detectable in Vattimo), both miss the distinction between simulacra and appearance: what gets lost in today's 'plague of simulations' is not the firm, true, non-simulated Real, but appearance itself...The old conservative motto of 'keeping up appearances' thus takes a new twist today: it no longer stands for the 'wisdom' according to which it is better not to disturb the rules of social etiquette too much, since social chaos might ensue. Today, the effort to 'keep up appearances' stands, rather, for the effort to maintain the properly political space against the onslaught of the postmodern all-embracing social body, with its multitude of particular identities.
This is also how one has to read Hegel's famous dictum from his _Phenomenology_: 'the Suprasensible is appearance qua appearance'. In a sentimental answer to a child asking him what God's face is like, a priest answers that whenever the child encounters a human face irradiating benevolence and goodness, whoever this face belongs to, he catches a glimpse of His face...The truth of this sentimental platitude is that the Suprasensible (God's face) is discernible as a momentary, fleeting appearance, the 'grimace' of an earthly face. It is THIS dimension of 'appearance' transubstantiating a piece of reality into something which, for a brief moment, irradiates the suprasensible Eternity that is missing in the logic of the simulacrum: in the simulacrum, which becomes indistinguishable from the Real, everything is here, and no other, transcendent dimension effectively 'appears' in/through it. Here we are back at the Kantian problematic of the sublime: in Kant's famous reading of the enthusiasm evoked by the French Revolution in the enlightened public around Europe, the revolutionary events functioned as a sign through which the dimension of trans-phenomenal Freedom, of a free society, APPEARED. 'Appearance' is thus not simply the domain of phenomena, but those 'magic moments' in which another, noumenal dimension momentarily 'appears' in ('shines through') some empirical/contingent phenomenon...In short, one should distinguish here between two couples of opposites whicha re absolutely not to be confused int eh single opposition of appearance verus reality: the couple of reality and its simulacrum, and the couple of the Real and appearance. The Real is a grimace of reality: say, a disgustingly contorted face in which the Real of a deadly rage transpires/appears..."
_The Fragile Absolute_, 195-196
Computer generated faces have no 'suprasensibility' then? Do they still have an 'aura'? Might the narrow definition of "suprasensible" Zizek seems to be pushing fall closer - to borrow from Derrida - to a "faith without religion" or an "openness to the other AS OTHER?" Zizek pretends to disagree with Derrida while he merely borrows from him; one of many crucial differences being a fervent insistence, on Zizek's part, that everything be reinscribed within an idealized split between "the Symbolic and the Real." In the end, maybe there are good reasons why many folks - and not only Derrida - are so resistant to the tradition of Lacan.
Finally, as recent posts at The Weblog and Charlotte Street have taken up, such formulations may themselves be something of an impatient, Zizekian maneuver. Perhaps it is better - as Foucault once said - just to put the polemicist's book down.