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Positioning the Intellectual: Žižek as a Sociological Phenomenon

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This dissertation offers a sociological examination of the rise to prominence of Slavoj Žižek—the Slovene philo-superstar and intellectual celebrity. Drawing upon cultural sociology and the sociology of intellectual interventions, the dissertation widens the application of Positioning Theory, suggesting that Žižek’s unique mode of intellectual intervention, ‘super-positioning’, is the key to his rise as a global public intellectual. The dissertation traces the contexts, performances, and relations through which Žižek’s intellectual interventions became an international printed and digital phenomenon. It begins with Slovenia’s and Yugoslavia’s intellectual, political, and cultural positioning, followed by Žižek’s unique and multiple reactions. It then moves on to France and the UK as the initial sites for Žižek’s global emergence, followed by the US through which he became a global public phenomenon. The dissertation explains Žižek’s attractive originality through his ability to narrate the present, create novel intellectual and political positions, and perform them in his invented language of ‘Hegelacanese’ and repertoire of rhetorical questions, jokes, and examples. It also describes the current consequences of such a complex super-positioning, namely the media-academia trade-off in which Žižek’s public success, for example becoming an ‘Internet philosopher’, comes at the price of sacrificing his intellectual position. Situated carefully between the purely objective historiography and the subjective psychobiography, the dissertation reveals the social aspects of the Žižekian phenomenon, from inception to reception, and bridges the individuality and singularity of Žižek with the social and general conditions of his emergence. As such, this exploration is not only about Žižek, but the society that created him.


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The Fantasy of Neoliberalism : Discursive Representations of the Left's Submission to Contemporary Capitalist Ideology

  • Stuart Bennett
  • Politics, Languages & International Studies

Student thesis : Doctoral Thesis › PhD

  • Neoliberalism
  • Psychoanalysis

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Type : Thesis

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A Theology of Failure: Ontology and Desire in Slavoj Žižek and Christian Apophaticism

ROSE, CHRISTA,MARIKA (2014) A Theology of Failure: Ontology and Desire in Slavoj Žižek and Christian Apophaticism. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

This thesis offers a re-reading of the Christian apophatic tradition via the work of Slavoj Žižek in order to articulate an account of Christian theology and identity as failure, as constituted by a commitment to Christ as both its cornerstone and the stone on which it stumbles. In Dionysius the Areopagite’s marriage of Christian theology with Neoplatonism, the ontology of Neoplatonism is brought into uncomfortable but productive tension with key themes in Christian theology. These tensions are a crucial aspect of Dionysius' legacy, visible not only in subsequent theological thought but also in much twentieth century continental philosophy as it seeks to disentangle itself from its Christian ancestry. Twentieth century discussions of the relationship between apophatic theology and continental philosophy attempt to grapple with this inheritance. The work of Slavoj Žižek, I argue, is an attempt to move beyond the impasses of twentieth century philosophy not by escaping but by returning to metaphysics, drawing on the work of Hegel and Lacan in order to articulate an account of the material world as an intrinsically ruptured economy. This form repeats itself in those structures which subsequently emerge from the material world – in particular, the structures of the individual subject and of the social order and the ways in which both are constituted by desire. This thesis traces the implications of this peculiar ontology through, first, the Derridean problematic of the gift and, second, the Žižekian problematic of violence (both of which, I argue, are structurally homologous with the Christian theological problematics of creation and fall). The thesis offers a critical and theological engagement with Žižek's ontological and erotic account of transformation before returning to Dionysius in order to demonstrate how Žižek's work makes possible a materialist reading of apophatic theology and Christian commitment to the church.

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The European Graduate School

Slavoj Žižek

Professor of philosophy and psychoanalysis at the european graduate school / egs.

Slavoj Žižek

Slavoj Žižek (b. 1949) is a Slovenian-born philosopher and psychoanalyst. He is a professor of philosophy at The European Graduate School / EGS, a senior researcher at the Institute for Sociology and Philosophy at the University of Ljubljana, Global Distinguished Professor of German at New York University, International Director of the Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities, and founder and president of the Society for Theoretical Psychoanalysis, Ljubljana. Aside from these appointments, Žižek tirelessly gives lectures around the globe and is often described as “the Elvis of cultural theory”. Although, more seriously, as British critical theorist Terry Eagleton confers, Žižek is the “most formidably brilliant” theorist to have emerged from Europe in decades. Many, in fact, now consider Žižek to be “the most dangerous philosopher in the West.”

He grew up in in Ljubljana, Slovenia, which at the time was part of the former Yugoslavia. The regime’s more permissive, albeit “pernicious,” policies allowed for Žižek’s exposure to Western theory and culture, in particular film, English detective novels, German Idealism, French structuralism, and Jacques Lacan. Studying at the University of Ljubljana, he completed his master’s degree in philosophy in 1975 with a thesis on French structuralism and his Doctoral degree in philosophy in 1981 with a dissertation on German Idealism. He then went to Paris, along with Mladen Dolar, to study Lacan under Jacques Alain-Miller (Lacan’s son-in-law and disciple). During this time in Paris, from 1981–85, Žižek completed another dissertation on the work of Hegel, Marx, and Kripke through a Lacanian lens. After his return to Slovenia, he became more politically active writing for , a weekly newspaper, co-founding the Slovenian Liberal Demorcratic Party, and running for one of four seats that comprised the collective Slovenian presidency (Žižek came in fifth).

Žižek rose to prominence in 1989 following his first book published in English, . Since then he has written countless books, in fact, perhaps the only thing more numerous than the talks he tirelessly gives across the globe are the books on which those interviews stand. For the last twenty-five years Žižek has been writing predominantly in English, and to a far lesser extent in his native Slovenian,  for obvious reasons . His books of the last decades include: (1991), (1993), (1997), (1999), (2006), (2001), (1996), (1992), (1991), (2015), (2003), (2002), (2010), (1994), (2002), (2009), (2009), (2007), (2012), (2007), (2001), (2008), (2000), and (2012). Along with these and many other books, he has also co-authored a number of books with Alain Badiou, Judith Butler, Eric Santner, John Millbank, Ernesto Laclau, Boris Gunjević, and Agon Hamza, among others. Further, he is the editor of a number of consequential series, including Wo Es War by Verso, SIC by Duke University Press, and Short Circuits by MIT Press. Finally, Žižek is a consistent contributor to , , and other journals.

Lets “begin at the beginning”––as Žižek is fond of saying, clearly referring to the project of German Idealism, as is evident to the careful reader––or better, still, let’s begin before the beginning. The style of Žižek’s work is infamous. From his many talks and lectures, through his essays and books––the introductory, the directly political works, and the more serious, challenging works ()––Žižek’s style has often led many to not take him seriously. It should, however, be asked: why does Žižek speak and write as he does (given his frequent remarks that his true love is serious philosophical thought, more specifically still, the resurrection of German Idealism)? And what is style? The answer to the second is simpler than that of the first: style, as Jacques Lacan states in the opening pages of  É , is always a question of to whom one is addressing oneself. The answer to the first, however, is the same.

Žižek’s style has long been a point of discussion, and often a consideration by which he is not only not taken seriously and disregarded, but also a preoccupation that offers some sympathizers an excuse to not engage with his thought seriously. Perhaps this is reason enough to take it––as well as our preoccupation with it––more seriously. His style involves not only a disregard for the distinction between high and low culture––strikingly collapsing genres into one another––academically inappropriate uses of examples to illustrate serious philosophical, psychoanalytic and political issues, etc., but also the curious and frustrating moment in which he refuses to answer to the demands of his readers and listeners as to what they are to do with it all, by claiming that he does not know.

But is this really so particular to Žižek? What is the Žižekian procedure, when minimally defined? Žižek always begins with a cultural phenomenon or presupposition, which is slowly poked and probed by other cultural phenomena and presuppositions, until the reader finds himself in a position opposite to the one from which he may have begun, but without ever having been confronted with “philosophical truth,” stated with straight authority. Conceptual tools are used throughout, but are introduced slowly only as to clarify and distinguish the immanent analysis, only fully developed at the end. Moreover, as irreflexive or spontaneous relationships, oppositions, positions, and definitions of phenomena are subverted, the same result takes place in theory. In both cases, odd couples are formed between philosophies, between theories and political practices, between emblems and implications, processes, assumptions and conclusions, and so on. Figures enter the scene in odd positions, arguments are continually problematized, up until the very end, at which point a novice to Žižek’s philosophy is not immediately left with a clear conclusion of his position, but rather a web of confusion, so to speak, and yet at the same time the sense that there is a system­­ of sorts––the consistent grasp of which is the work still left for the reader. Finally, we could even add that the very sequence of Žižek’s work is constant, although his exact position has shifted a number of times, such that he always begins not only with ideology, but with ideology at its purest, that is, a position presupposing itself non-ideological, and an articulation of how the position sees itself, finally arriving at some formulation of absolute knowledge; or, as Žižek constantly reminds his readers, absolute knowing, and the consequent ethical stance to be assumed. There is no reason not to be frank: the Platonic dialogues find their resurrection here.

A second remark bears mention here: in his books and talks Žižek assumes the position offered to him, or even demanded of him––the position of he who, is supposed to, know. The position is offered to him, and demanded of him precisely because he consistently catches theories and positions at the moment of their contradiction or duplicity. Assuming the position, Žižek frustrates the demand; that is, he assumes the position without answering to the demand––revealing the desire of his audience. In short, Žižek’s style, his discourse, is the embodiment of one of the primary elements of his theory: the community of analysts as the model for an emancipatory collective. As Lacan would say, in regards his position, at its most elementary, is not articulable, because it is articulated.

As he so often publicly proclaims, Žižek is a card-carrying Lacanian. This itself is peculiar, given his distance from Jacques-Alain Miller, on, amongst other things, the political implications of psychoanalysis, and most specifically, the psychoanalytic school as a model for emancipatory political organization. In fact, a large part of Žižek’s political project, if not its foundation, assumes the possibility of a passage where Lacan is popularly assumed to have found only an impasse. Even so, Žižek is a Lacanian; it is by way of his fidelity to Lacan, by way of his return to Lacan, that he can see the limits of Lacan and move beyond.

While Žižek’s “exact position” has shifted a number of times, his basic constellation (as he often reiterates, for instance in ) has remained constant: Hegel, Marx, and Lacan. And within this constellation are three related concerns to which he relentlessly returns: (1) enjoyment as a political factor, (2) the subject as a self-relating negativity, and (3), the problem of appearance, i.e., not what is hidden behind it, but precisely why anything appears in the first place, as he writes in :

(Parallax View, p. xx)

Žižek’s search for these conditions of possibility lead him not only to the Lacanian conceptions of the non-existence of the Big Other or the Real as barred, but to German Idealism. Recently, it has become ever more frequent that Žižek confirms that his true master is not Jacques Lacan but G.W.F. Hegel. This remark bears mention as Žižek’s return to German Idealism is not at all merely a resurrection of Hegel, but of all the great philosophers of this time––Immanuel Kant, Johann Gottlieb Fichte, Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling and Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel––or, more accurately, of the movement from Kant to Hegel.

We find mention of this movement from Kant to Hegel frequently in his works. And in brief, Žižek’s understanding of this transition is that Hegel ontologized Kant, meaning, that Hegel names the transition from an epistemological void to an ontological one:

(The Ticklish Subject, p. 55)

The void in the ontological edifice, according to Žižek’s reading of Hegel, is itself the subject. And so, the movement from Kant to Hegel is the movement from the inaccessible Thing beyond the subject’s reach to the subject itself as the Thing incapable of being reduced to the world of phenomena around which is exists. Žižek’s thesis is that the Hegelian Absolute is not a calm and serene All at peace with itself, but an Absolute constantly at war with itself, internally torn asunder by unrest and antagonism. The name of this crack in the One is the subject. This is, he proposes, the sense of Hegel’s fundamental thesis, announced at the outset of , is that the True is not only Substance, but equally Subject.

What takes place for Žižek here is a shift in the real: from the Kantian real to the Hegelian. As is often the case, Žižek uses the terms of psychoanalysis to read philosophy. In this case, he uses Lacan’s conception of the Real to draw out the shift: there is the Kantian Real-as-presupposed and the Hegelian Real-as-posed, i.e., the Kantian Real of being is a being that pre-exists and exists beyond the realm of phenomena, while the Hegelian Real is one posited by the subject behind the real of phenomena. In the first instance, the real is a substantial fullness that precedes the advent of, again in Lacanian terms, the Imaginary-Symbolic reality, i.e., phenomena, while in the second it is an empty void situated within the Imaginary-Symbolic reality, and the posited consequence of breakdowns, inconsistencies, and impasses within it. This is, however, a simplified distinction for the simple reason that as the shift in Lacan, announced after the Seventh Seminar, , is not a simple change from one notion of the real to another, homologously, the movement from Kant through to Hegel is not a simple substitution. The full account of this movement demands an understanding of Žižek’s interpretation of the entire sequence of attempted resolutions to the Kantian problem, i.e., of the passage from Kant to Fichte to Schelling to Hegel, and Žižek’s continuous meditation on this problem constitutes the very kernel of all of his works.

In sum, at the strictly philosophical level, Žižek’s work focuses on the resurrection of German Idealism, specifically the notion of the subject as self-relating negativity, and the problem of the ontological conditions of possibility for appearance. His latest work, as announced in the subtitle of his latest book, , is to establish the foundations of dialectical materialism. At the political level, Žižek’s project can be said to have three primary concerns: first, the identification of contradictions in late or contemporary capitalism, along with its democratic-liberal ideology, second, the overarching problem of enjoyment as a political factor, and three, theoretical work on a new form of mastery and organization.

In Defence of the Terror: Liberty or Death in the French Revolution, Žižek, Slavoj, and Sophie Wahnich. In Defence of the Terror: Liberty or Death in the French Revolution. Verso, 2016. ISBN: 1784782025

Islam, Ateizam i Modernost: Neka Bogohulna Razmisljanja, Žižek, Slavoj. Islam, Ateizam i Modernost: Neka Bogohulna Razmisljanja. Akademska knjiga, 2015. ISBN: 8662630855

Absolute Recoil: Towards a New Foundation of Dialectical Materialism, Žižek, Slavoj. Absolute Recoil: Towards a New Foundation of Dialectical Materialism. Verso, 2014. ISBN: 1781686823

Trouble in Paradise: From the End of History to the End of Capitalism, Žižek, Slavoj. Trouble in Paradise: From the End of History to the End of Capitalism. Allen Lane, 2014. ISBN: 1612194443

Demanding the Impossible, Žižek, Slavoj. Demanding the Impossible. Polity Press, 2014. ISBN: 0745672299

The Most Sublime Hysteric: Hegel with Lacan, Žižek, Slavoj. The Most Sublime Hysteric: Hegel with Lacan. Polity Press, 2014. ISBN: 0745663753

Event: A Philosophical Journey Through A Concept, Žižek, Slavoj. Event: A Philosophical Journey Through A Concept. Melville House, 2014. ISBN: 1612194117

What Does Europe Want?: The Union and Its Discontents, Žižek, Slavoj, and Srecko Horvat. What Does Europe Want?: The Union and Its Discontents. Columbia University Press, 2014. ISBN: 0231171072

Comradely Greetings: The Prison Letters of Nadya and Slavoj, Žižek, Slavoj, and Nadezhda Tololonnikova. Comradely Greetings: The Prison Letters of Nadya and Slavoj. Verso, 2014. ISBN: 1781687730

Zizek’s Jokes: Did You Hear the One About Hegel and Negation?, Žižek, Slavoj. Zizek’s Jokes: Did You Hear the One About Hegel and Negation? MIT Press, 2014. ISBN: 0262026716

From Myth to Symptom: The Case of Kosovo, Žižek, Slavoj, and Agon Hamza. From Myth to Symptom: The Case of Kosovo. KMD, 2013. ISBN: 9951883524

The Idea of Communism 2: The New York Conference, Žižek, Slavoj. The Idea of Communism 2: The New York Conference. Verso, 2013. ISBN: 1844679802

The Year of Dreaming Dangerously, Žižek, Slavoj. The Year of Dreaming Dangerously. Verso, 2012. ISBN: 1781680426

God in Pain: Inversions of Apocalypse, Žižek, Slavoj, and Boris Gunjevic. God in Pain: Inversions of Apocalypse. Seven Stories Press, 2012. ISBN: 1609803698

Less Than Nothing: Hegel and the Shadow of Dialectical Materialism, Žižek, Slavoj. Less Than Nothing: Hegel and the Shadow of Dialectical Materialism. Verso, 2012. ISBN: 1844678970

Začeti od začetka, Žižek, Slavoj. Začeti od začetka. Cankarjeva Zalozba, 2011.

Living in the End Times, Žižek, Slavoj. Living in the End Times. Verso, 2010. ISBN: 184467598X

Philosophy in the Present, Žižek, Slavoj, and Alain Badiou. Philosophy in the Present. Polity Press, 2010. ISBN: 0745640974

First as Tragedy, Then as Farce, Žižek, Slavoj. First as Tragedy, Then as Farce. Verso, 2009. ISBN: 1844674282

The Monstrosity of Christ: Paradox or Dialectic?, Žižek, Slavoj, and John Millbank. The Monstrosity of Christ: Paradox or Dialectic? MIT Press, 2009. ISBN: 0262012715

Violence, Žižek, Slavoj. Violence. Picador, 2008. ISBN: 0312427182

In Defense of Lost Causes, Žižek, Slavoj. In Defense of Lost Causes. Verso, 2007. ISBN: 1844674290

How to Read Lacan, Žižek, Slavoj. How to Read Lacan. W.W. Norton, 2007. ISBN: 0393329550

Virtue and Terror (Revolution), Žižek, Slavoj, and Maximilien Robespierre. Virtue and Terror (Revolution). Verso, 2007. ISBN: 184467584X

The Parallax View, Žižek, Slavoj. The Parallax View. MIT Press, 2006. ISBN: 0262240513

The Neighbor: Three Inquiries in Political Theology, Žižek, Slavoj, Eric Santner, and Keith Reinhard. The Neighbor: Three Inquiries in Political Theology. University of Chicago Press, 2006. ISBN: 022604520X

The Universal Exception, Žižek, Slavoj. The Universal Exception. Continuum, 2005. ISBN: 1472570073

Interrogating the Real: Selected Writings, Žižek, Slavoj. Interrogating the Real: Selected Writings. Continuum, 2005. ISBN: 0826471102

Iraq: Borrowed Kettle, Žižek, Slavoj. Iraq: Borrowed Kettle. Verso, 2004. ISBN: 1844670015

Conversations with Zizek, Žižek, Slavoj, and Glyn Daly. Conversations with Zizek. Polity Press, 2004. ISBN: 0745628974

Organs Without Bodies: On Deleuze and Consequences, Žižek, Slavoj. Organs Without Bodies: On Deleuze and Consequences. Routledge, 2003. ISBN: 0415519047

The Puppet and the Dwarf: The Perverse Core of Christianity, Žižek, Slavoj. The Puppet and the Dwarf: The Perverse Core of Christianity. MIT Press, 2002. ISBN: 0262740257

Repeating Lenin, Žižek, Slavoj. Repeating Lenin. Arkzin, 2001. ISBN: 9536542188

Did Somebody Say Totalitarianism? Five Essays in the (Mis)Use of a Notion, Žižek, Slavoj. Did Somebody Say Totalitarianism? Five Essays in the (Mis)Use of a Notion. Verso, 2001. ISBN: 1844677133

The Fright of Real Tears, Kieslowski and The Future, Žižek, Slavoj. The Fright of Real Tears, Kieslowski and The Future. Indiana University Press, 2001. ISBN: 0851707548

On Belief, Žižek, Slavoj. On Belief. Routledge, 2001. ISBN: 0415255325

Opera’s Second Death, Žižek, Slavoj, and Mladen Dolar. Opera’s Second Death. Routledge, 2001. ISBN: 0415930170

Welcome to the Desert of the Real, Žižek, Slavoj. Welcome to the Desert of the Real. The Wooster Press, 2001. ISBN: 1859844219

The Fragile Absolute, Or Why the Christian Legacy is Worth Fighting For, Žižek, Slavoj. The Fragile Absolute, Or Why the Christian Legacy is Worth Fighting For. Verso, 2000. ISBN: 1844673022

The Art of the Ridiculous Sublime: On David Lynch’s Lost Highway, Žižek, Slavoj. The Art of the Ridiculous Sublime: On David Lynch’s Lost Highway. University of Washington, 2000. ISBN: 0295979259

Enjoy Your Symptom: Jacques Lacan in Hollywood and Out, 2nd Edition, Žižek, Slavoj. Enjoy Your Symptom: Jacques Lacan in Hollywood and Out, 2nd Edition. Routledge, 2000. ASIN: B00DT63XJC

NATO as the Left Hand of God, Žižek, Slavoj. NATO as the Left Hand of God. Arkzin, 1999.

The Ticklish Subject: The Absent Centre of Political Ontology, Žižek, Slavoj. The Ticklish Subject: The Absent Centre of Political Ontology. Verson, 1999. ISBN: 1844673014

The Spectre is Still Roaming Around!, Žižek, Slavoj. The Spectre is Still Roaming Around! Arkzin, 1998. ISBN: 9536542080

The Abyss of Freedom: Ages of the World, Žižek, Slavoj. The Abyss of Freedom: Ages of the World. University of Michigan Press, 1997. ISBN: 0472066528

The Plague of Fantasies, Žižek, Slavoj. The Plague of Fantasies. Verso, 1997. ISBN: 1844673030

The Indivisible Remainder: An Essay on Schelling and Related Matters, Žižek, Slavoj. The Indivisible Remainder: An Essay on Schelling and Related Matters. Verso, 1996. ISBN: 1859840949

The Metasases of Enjoyment: Six Essays on Woman and Causality, Žižek, Slavoj. The Metasases of Enjoyment: Six Essays on Woman and Causality. Verso, 1994. ISBN: 086091688X

Tarrying with the Negative: Kant, Hegel and the Critique of Ideology, Žižek, Slavoj. Tarrying with the Negative: Kant, Hegel and the Critique of Ideology. Duke Uniersity Press, 1993. ISBN: 0822313952

Enjoy Your Symptom! Jacques Lacan In Hollywood And Out, Žižek, Slavoj. Enjoy Your Symptom! Jacques Lacan In Hollywood And Out. Routledge, 1992. ISBN: 0415772591

Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Lacan (But Were Afraid To Ask Hitchcock), Žižek, Slavoj. Everything You Always Wanted Yo Know About Lacan (But Were Afraid To Ask Hitchcock). Verso, 1992. ISBN: 0860915921

Looking Awry: an Introduction to Jacques Lacan through Popular Culture, Žižek, Slavoj. Looking Awry: an Introduction to Jacques Lacan through Popular Culture. MIT Press, 1991. ISBN: 026274015X

For They Know Not What They Do: Enjoyment As A Political Factor, Žižek, Slavoj. For They Know Not What They Do: Enjoyment As A Political Factor. Verso, 1991. ISBN: 1844672123

The Sublime Object of Ideology, Žižek, Slavoj. The Sublime Object of Ideology. Verso, 1989. ISBN: 1844673006

Slavoj Žižek – “The Obscene Monster” (Excerpt 2) – 7.30.2020

Slavoj Žižek – Fall 2020 Lecture – “The Rise of Obscene Masters” – 07.27.2020 (Excerpt)

“Disorder Under Heaven”

Capitalism and its Threats

“Christian Atheism”

On The Left (Excerpt)

The great challenge of The Left

Object Petit a and Digital Civilization

Ideology and Modalities of Not Knowing

Lacan’s four discourses and the real

Communist Absconditus

The Buddhist Ethic and the Spirit of Global Capitalism

Different Figures of The Big Other

Object a and The Function of Ideology

Ontological Incompleteness In Painting, Literature and Quantum Theory

On Melancholy

The Function of Fantasy In The Lacanian Real

The Irony of Buddhism

Lacanian Theology and Buddhism

Ontological Incompleteness in Film

Being and Subjectivity: Act and Evental Enthusiasm

The Big Other and The Event of Subjectivity

Confronting Humanity & The Post-Modern 17/17

Confronting Humanity & The Post-Modern 16/17

Confronting Humanity & The Post-Modern 15/17

Confronting Humanity & The Post-Modern 14/17

Confronting Humanity & The Post-Modern 13/17

Confronting Humanity & The Post-Modern 12/17

Confronting Humanity & The Post-Modern 11/17

Confronting Humanity & The Post-Modern 10/17

Confronting Humanity & The Post-Modern 9/17

Confronting Humanity & The Post-Modern 8/17

Confronting Humanity & The Post-Modern 7/17

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Confronting Humanity & The Post-Modern 5/17

Confronting Humanity & The Post-Modern 4/17

Confronting Humanity & The Post-Modern 3/17

Confronting Humanity & The Post-Modern 2/17

Confronting Humanity & The Post-Modern 1/17

The Interaction With the Other in Hegel 17/17

The Interaction With the Other in Hegel 16/17

The Interaction With the Other in Hegel 15/17

The Interaction With the Other in Hegel 14/17

The Interaction With the Other in Hegel 13/17

The Interaction With the Other in Hegel 12/17

The Interaction With the Other in Hegel 11/17

The Interaction With the Other in Hegel 10/17

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Paul's 'new moment': the reception of Paul in Alain Badiou, Terry Eagleton, Slavoj Zizek

This thesis traces the ‘New Moment’ in Pauline reception in the writings of Alain Badiou, Terry Eagleton and Slavoj Žižek. It explores how the Pauline epistles are read and feature in their thought. An answer to the question, 'why Paul?' prompts reflection on what it is to read and understand the Apostle.

An introduction sets out the writers of this ‘New Moment’ [Jacob Taubes, Giorgio Agamben, Stanislas Breton, as well as Badiou, Eagleton and Žižek] before isolating the figures of t...

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• Books: A Summary He was born the only child of middle-class bureaucrats (who hoped he would become an economist) on 21 March 1949 in Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia and, at that time, part of Yugoslavia. Yugoslavia was, then, under the rule of Marshal Tito (1892-1980), one of the more 'liberal' communist countries in the Eastern Bloc, although, as Zizek points out, the freedoms the regime granted its subjects were rather ambivalent, inducing in the population a form of pernicious self-regulation. One aspect of state control that did have a positive effect on Zizek, however, was the law which required film companies to submit to local university archives a copy of every film they wished to distribute. Zizek was, therefore, able to watch every American and European release and establish a firm grasp of the traditions of Hollywood which have served him so well since. Zizek's interest in the films of Hollywood was matched only by a dislike for the films and, particularly, the literature of his own country. Much of Slovenian art was, for him, contaminated by either the ideology of the Communist Party or by a right-wing nationalism. Slovenian poetry specifically is still, according to Zizek, falsely venerated as "the fundamental cornerstone of Slovene society". Consequently, from his teenage years onwards, Zizek devoted himself to reading only literature written in English, particularly detective fiction. Pursuing his own cultural interests, Zizek developed an early taste for philosophy and knew by the age of 17 that he wanted to be a philosopher. Studying at the University of Ljubljana, Zizek published his first book when he was 20 and went on to earn a Bachelor of Arts (philosophy and sociology) in 1971, and then went on to complete a Master of Arts (philosophy) in 1975. The 400-page thesis for the latter degree was entitled "The Theoretical and Practical Relevance of French Structuralism", a work which analysed the growing influence of the French thinkers Jacques Lacan, Jacques Derrida, Julia Kristeva, Claude L�vi-Strauss and Gilles Deleuze. Unfortunately, although Zizek had been promised a job at the university, his thesis was deemed by the officiating panel to be politically suspicious and he therefore lost the job to another candidate who was closer to the party line. According to his fellow Slovenian philosopher Miaden Dolar (b. 1951), the authorities were concerned that the charismatic teaching of Zizek might improperly influence students with his dissident thinking. Disappointed by this rejection of his talents, Zizek spent the next couple of years in the professional wilderness, undertaking his National Service in the Yugoslav army, and supporting his wife and son as best he could by occasionally translating German philosophy. However, in 1977 several of his influential connections secured him a post at the Central Committee of the League of Slovene Communists where, despite his supposedly dissident politics, he occasionally wrote speeches for leading communists and, during the rest of the time, studied philosophy. In these years, Zizek became part of a significant group of Slovenian scholars working on the theories of the French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan (1901-1981) and with whom he went on to found the Society for Theoretical Psychoanalysis in Ljubljana. This group, among whose best-known members are Dolar and Zizek's second wife Renata Salecl (b. 1962), established editorial control over a journal called Problem! (in which Zizek was not afraid to author bad reviews of his own books, or even to write reviews of books that did not exist), and began to publish a book series called Analecta . Zizek himself is unsure as to why so many Lacanians should have gathered in Ljubljana, but he does point out that, in contrast to the other countries in the former Yugoslavia, there was no established psychoanalytic community to hamper or mitigate their interest in the usually controversial work of the Frenchman. . Although still disbarred from a traditional university position, in 1979 Zizek's friends procured him a better job as Researcher at the University of Ljubljana's Institute for Sociology. At the time, Zizek thought that this was an intellectual cul-de-sac in which the communist regime placed those who were inconvenient to them. As it transpired, however, this job, which would be the envy of most academics, meant Zizek was able to pursue his research interests free from the pressures of teaching and bureaucracy. It was there that, in 1981, he earned his first Doctor of Arts degree in philosophy. It was also in 1981 that Zizek travelled to Paris for the first time to meet some of the thinkers he had been writing about for so long and writing to - (he has several books by Jacques Derrida, for example, dedicated to him). Although Lacan was chief among these thinkers, he died in 1981 and it was actually Lacan's son-in-law, Jacques-Alain Miller, who was to prove more decisive in Zizek's development. Miller conducted open discussions about Lacan in Paris (and he still does), but he also conducted a more exclusive thirty-student seminar at the Ecole de la Cause Freudienne in which he examined the works of Lacan on a page by page basis. As the only representatives of Eastern Europe, both Zizek and Dolar were invited to join this seminar and it is there that Zizek developed his understanding of the later works of Lacan which still informs his thinking today. Miller also procured a teaching fellowship for Zizek and became his analyst. It was during these analytical sessions with Miller, which often only lasted ten minutes, that Zizek learned the truth of his oft-reported assertion that educated patients report symptoms and dreams appropriate to the type of psychoanalysis they are receiving. The result of Zizek's fabrication was that the sessions with Miller often ended up as a game of intellectual cat-and-mouse. This game ended in something of an impasse when Zizek completed his second Doctor of Arts (this time in psychoanalysis) at the Universite Paris-VIII in 1985. Miller, with whom Zizek had successfully defended his thesis, was the head of a publishing house but he delayed publishing Zizek's dissertation and so Zizek had to resort to a publisher outside the inner circle of Lacanians. This second major disappointment of his professional career threw Zizek back on his own resources. These resources were already being put to more obvious political ends back in Slovenia where Zizek became a regular columnist in a paper called Mladina . Mladina was a platform for the growing democratic opposition to the communist regime, a regime whose power was gradually diminishing throughout the second half of the 1980s in the face of growing political pluralism in both Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union. In 1990, the first democratic elections were held in Slovenia and Zizek stood for a place on the four-man Presidency - he came a narrow fifth. Although he stood as a Liberal Democrat candidate, this position was more strategic than a matter of conviction as he was attempting to defeat the conservative alliance between the nationalists and the ex-communists. Zizek does not, as he has often said, mind getting his political hands dirty. Nor did he mind becoming the Ambassador of Science for the Republic of Slovenia in 1991. Although Zizek continues to provide informal advice to the Slovenian government, his energies over the past decade have been firmly geared towards his research. Indeed, since 1989 and the publication of The Sublime Object of Ideology , Zizek has launched over 15 monographs, and a number of edited works written in English, on an eager public. He has also written books in German, French and Slovene, as well as having his work translated into Dutch, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish, Slovak, Serbo-Croatian and Swedish. The prolific intensity of Zizek's written output has been matched by his international success as a lecturer where he has faithfully transcribed the molten energy of the word on the page to the word on the stage across four different continents. Apart from his post at what is now the Institute for Social Sciences at the University of Ljubljana, Zizek has also held positions at SUNY Buffalo; the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis; the Tulane University, New Orleans; the Cardozo Law School, New York; Columbia University, New York; Princeton University; the New School for Social Research, New York; and at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor since 1991. He also maintains his editorial role for the Analecta series in Slovenia, as well as helping establish Wo es war (a series based on Lacanian psychoanalysis and Marxism) and SIC (a series devoted to Lacanian analyses of culture and politics) in German and English. At all stages in Zizek's life, then, we can detect the insistence of a theme. When he was growing up he preferred the films of Hollywood to the dominant culture of poetry in his own country. As a student he developed an interest in, and wrote about, French philosophy rather than the official communist paradigms of thought. When he began his professional career he preferred to read Lacan in terms of other philosophers rather than adhering to the orthodox Lacanian line. And, as we have seen, as a philosopher himself, he constantly refers to popular culture rather than those topics customarily studied by the subject. In each case, therefore, Zizek's intellectual development has been marked by a distance or heterogeneity to the official culture within which he works. He has always been a stain or point of opacity within the ruling orthodoxy and is never fully integrated by the social or philosophical conventions against which he operates. The point is that although Zizek's unauthorized approach has cost him the chance to become part of the established institutions on at least two occasions (once with his Master's thesis and once with his second Doctorate), he has defined his position only in his resistance to those institutions. This is not necessarily a question of Zizek initiating some kind of academic rebellion, nor even of proving how in the long run his talents have surpassed the obstacles erected against them, but rather of claiming that the character or identity of Zizek's philosophy is predicated upon the failure of the institutions to accomodate his thought. The eventual success of Zizekian theory proceeds partly from its clearly failure, from the fact that Zizek was able to perceive himself as alien to the system in which he worked. It was this alienation, this difference to the discourse of philosophy of which it was and is a part, which forged the identity of Zizek's own thought. Because Zizekian theory was no part of the objective system, it was in itself subjective. The reason that this is so pertinent is that Zizek describes the formation of what is known as the "subject" in a similar way. Indeed, one of Zizek's main contributions to critical theory is his detailed eleboration of the subject.

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Slavoj Žižek: Contemporary Islam and Extremism (Revisiting the Archives of Islam)

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In this chapter, I propose to revisit the controversy over Žižek’s views on Islam and extremism, by focusing on a very important but misunderstood text in Žižek’s interventions on Islam namely, “A Glance on the Archives of Islam.” This text constitutes a major intervention that encapsulates Žižek’s own dialectical theologico-political interpretation of Islam in response to Hegel’s teleological analysis of the three monotheistic religions and the mystery of the emergence of Islam after Christianity, which he considered the epitome of this teleological history. I argue that in the Archives, Žižek offers an original reading of the universality of Islam that re-actualizes the originary impulse in Hegel’s dialectical analysis of Islam as endogenous to the series of monotheistic religions, without falling into the trap of either Hegel’s racist Orientalist, Eurocentric, and Islamophobic views about Islam or their antithetical Islamocentric views.

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Notwithstanding Žižek’s own likely protestations, Hamza believes this is the only way that Žižek’s philosophy can withstand the test of time and be appreciated as more than “interventionist”—that is, to be valued as truly philosophical. This approach begs the question of whether or not formalization is indeed necessary to accomplish this objective. Suffice it to mention that the German philosopher, F. H. Jacobi, to whom both Žižek in Less Than Nothing and Adrian Johnston in his contribution to this volume refer, believed he could develop his own theory of knowledge against Kant’s, “without incurring the kind of formalism that…affected Kant’s own transcendental method.”

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: I argue that the Charlie Hebdo massacre, and the issue of fundamentalist terrorism in general, should be examined in relation to the contradictions of living in a neo-liberal global capitalist system. These contradictions are played out at the political, cultural, ideological levels in a way that obscures the fundamental antagonism, making any radical solution to the problem of fundamentalist terrorism beyond our reach. I examine these contradictions in four different themes around which the issue of fundamentalist terrorism is staged within the hegemonic neoliberal global capitalist order: the clash of civilizations; colonial and postcolonial politics; leftist solidarity; and the failure of all practical solutions in the fight against fundamentalist terrorism. I end the piece with a call for rethinking the issue of fundamentalist terrorism within the politics of the commons.

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This article identifies how scholars have displaced antagonism within histories of Sikhism and South Asian Studies more broadly. In contrast to this displacement, this article foregrounds antagonism by taking into account a third element within the presumed colonizer and colonized relationship: a curved space of nonrelation that signals there can be no colonial relationship. By considering the constitutive nature of antagonism within social reality that remains unable to be demarcated, this article examines the generative principles of Sikh practices and concepts that both structure Sikhism's institutions and productively conceptualize this antagonism. Examining these concepts and practices, I consider the possibility of different modes of both historical being and becoming not bound within our current conceptual rubrics. These different possibilities culled through Sikh concepts and theories demand we reflect upon the rabble: those unable to be contained within colonial civil society or within attempts by the colonized for self‐determination in political societies. This void then fractured Sikh reform organizations historically, providing multiple avenues for politics unaccountable within our bifurcated and asymmetrical understandings of civil society and political societies and colonizer and colonized.


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Slavoj Žižek Between Public Intellectual and Academic Celebrity

In the third article of our special section on Superstar Professors, Eliran Bar-El considers the case of Slavoj Žižek and how this can contribute to a more refined understanding of academic celebrity and how we study it.

The study of academic celebrities is definitely not new. It was carried out for years, although not exactly under that banner. Immediately, then, we have the problem of meaning: what exactly do mean by saying academic celebrity? Are we talking about successful innovative academics? Are we talking about worldwide recognized academics? These questions can go on forever. Yet, it is useful to link this line of questioning to the vast literature of intellectuals in general and public intellectuals more specifically. This will help frame and contextualize the opaque title of academic celebrity. So the purpose of this post is double: first, identify the problem regarding academic celebrities; and second, discuss the ways this problem is dealt within scholarly research.

I assume that academic celebrity is a sub-set of celebrities. At least by name alone this is the case. And so, just like pop-culture or sports celebrities, we can locate the academic celebrities as working within some institution, namely, academia. Now my initial question is what are the relations between public intellectuals and academic celebrities? Well, from the very beginning differences emerge: the public and academia are different domains of social life. Some public intellectuals (like artists) are not academics. And some academic celebrities are unknown to the public (perhaps Bruno Latour is such a case). Some, of course, can be both. Yet, it is reasonable to assume that academic celebrities also fall under the broader category of intellectuals. There cannot be an academic celebrity who is not an intellectual. But the matter of being a public intellectual is about acting beyond the academic field, by intervening in public affairs.

So we are dealing with two, not unrelated and yet not the same, fields and issues. Let us try to generally define them: academic celebrities are those who benefit from a high status (and recognition) in the academic space, as they are known, taught, and talked about, thus they occupy much room in that space. Just like Justin Bieber in the musical space, who occupies a lot of it, relatively of course. On the other hand, we find the public space, which is quite distinct from the academic space, just as Cambridge is distinct from London, or Yale from New-York. Here, the definition would be something like this: a public intellectual is one who successfully uses his/her symbolic capital gained within the routine field of activity (art or science etc.), in order to intervene in the political sphere and make an ethical stand regarding the public as a whole.

So coming back to the relations between academic celebrities and intellectuals, we can claim that first we have intellectuals, then some of them become celebrities within academia, and some (maybe the same) become also public intellectuals. The case of (the philo-superstar) SlavojŽižek is of special interest in this sense. First, there can be no doubt that he is an intellectual. Second, he is for sure a public intellectual (given the definition above). Third, while he is very much known outside the academic field, his reception (and reputation) within it is much more ambiguous (see for instance his very low score in the open syllabus project ). Thus, his celebrity status within academia is not so established. This brings us to the crucial matter of studying intellectuals (and academics), which, as I stated at the beginning, is not new.

Since 1924 when Max Scheler coined the phrase sociology of knowledge, the latter has been an object of sociological analysis. Although many dealt with this topic before 1924 (see, for example, Marx's analysis of consciousness or Durkheim's analysis of collective representations), only with Mannheim did it become a clear, explicit subfield of sociological research. And then things got messy again. Merton studied the formation of scientific knowledge, while Berger and Luckmann focused on everyday knowledge-making, and in the 1970s "the Strong Programme" emphasized the study of scientific knowledge. So the question of academics themselves was pretty much neglected, until the rise of "the new sociology of ideas".

The sociology of ideas aimed at looking back also on the social sciences and the humanities. See, for example, Charles Camic's study of Parsons . The former tried to account for Parsons' choices throughout his career, as an attempt to explain his rise to prominence in the context of Harvard's sociology department. He claimed that the institutional conditions made Parsons adopt the European sociologists (Weber, Durkheim etc.) in order to acquire his unique position in that (American) field. Another example is Neil Gross's account of Richard Rorty's professional trajectory in the philosophical field . He argued that Rorty's 'self-concept' resonated more with the pragmatist school rather than the analytic philosophical tradition, based on his liberal upbringing.

Today, the sociology of interventions possesses a more sophisticated toolbox for studying intellectuals, which might also account for the study of academic celebrities. The key concepts here are positioning and performance . According to Patrick Baert's positioning theory , the focus should be more on the dynamic performative dimension of intellectual productions, rather the static intentions which are too psychological and "shady". Additionally, the notion of context is crucial; the same academic might not become a celebrity in another spatial/temporal context. So there is a clear relational aspect to it. This processual mode of thinking regards any kind of intellectual intervention as performative , in that it achieves something in the world, namely, it positions its author(s). And, it also regards intervention as performances , a social relation between performer and audience, intellectual and public, for example.

Positioning Theory, in contrast to the new sociology of ideas, focuses on the relational dynamic and pragmatic process of rhetorical actions and reactions – or, positioning and counter-positioning. It works perforce through the consequences of intellectual thoughts. Putting that apparatus to work on the case of Žižek, which is my object of study, may actually account for his emergence as a public intellectual – and – not really an academic celebrity, like Giddens or Bourdieu. Put differently, it explains why the public is more receptive to Žižek's ideas than academia proper. So, it is possible to show how Žižek is able to spread his ideas, creating what I have coined "the Žižek Effect", through 5 main elements:

  • Intricate relations to critics : Žižek currently takes a leading part in an active network of critical thought, along with Perry Anderson, Judith Butler, Alain Badiou, Fredrick Jameson and many more in the global context; and, in the local context, with his team – or troika – more narrowly, he advances his line of Hegelian-Lacanian inquiry.
  • Solid relationship with journalists : Žižek frequently intervenes through commenting on major worldwide events from the trauma of 9/11, the 2008 economic crisis, to the Arab Spring and the refugee crisis – showing how once prevalent ideas lost their credibility within our global society, and suggesting alternative ones instead.
  • Strong position in the publishing industry : As an editor of various book series, in Verso, MIT, Duke UP and elsewhere, he maintained over the years a unique position which allowed him to be very prolific (with almost 70 books published), and to advance fellow authors in his edited book series.
  • Use of varied communication channels : This also makes Žižek's ideas – which are not at all the simplest – much more accessible, as all his books (and films) are available online, where one can find hours on end of his public lectures and teachings. This allows him to disseminate his ideas directly to the public, which can take part in that intellectual performance.
  • Analyses that resonate a wider cultural sentiment : His positioning vis-à-vis the current global situation and the ones who frame it, allows him to acquire the role of a moral compass (at least for the left), against the usual notion that any grand claim for truth and universality is doomed for being proto-fascist.

Žižek is doing all that while mobilizing special kinds of performative, rhetorical tools. Generally, his use of language is unique in this respect. This is key for his public reception and academic rejection, as is clear from his polemic with Noam Chomsky . Beside cursing and telling dirty jokes, his extensive use of examples AND jokes is part of his methodology. The example (in-itself) is a crucial operator in Žižek's work, for it not only concretizes a concept – it constitutes it. This way he positions himself both as an intellectual, who hires Hegel and Lacan, and an activist, siding with the people in their struggles, provide them with meaning while using many common-knowledge everyday examples.

This kind of process-oriented study is very illuminating. It highlights both intellectual and academic conceptualizations, together with the public and its affairs. This can turn into celebrity study, which focuses on academia, but is surely not confined to it.

Other articles in the Superstar Professors collection

Academic celebrity and the publishing industry, is it a bird is it a plane no, it’s superprofessor, how to shift sociological product lessons from the career of anthony giddens.

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Dissertations / Theses on the topic 'Zizek'

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Pfeifer, Geoffrey Dennis. "The New Materialism: Althusser, Badiou, and Zizek." Scholar Commons, 2012.

Lafontaine, Andrée. "Analyse critique du projet politique de Slavoj Zizek." Thesis, University of Ottawa (Canada), 2005.

Sondey, William. "Capital as Master-Signifier: Zizek, Lacan, and Berardi." Bowling Green State University / OhioLINK, 2014.

Del, Duca Alexander M. "Between Marxism and Postmodernism: Slavoj Zizek Doing the Impossible." Thèse, Université d'Ottawa / University of Ottawa, 2013.

Hourigan, Daniel. "The Phantasmatic Subject of Technology: Slavoj Zizek, Techne, and the Abyss." Thesis, Griffith University, 2009.

Cuff, Simon L. "Paul's 'new moment' : the reception of Paul in Alain Badiou, Terry Eagleton, Slavoj Zizek." Thesis, University of Oxford, 2014.

Cleveland, Matthew School of English UNSW. "The Substrates of Transgression: A ??i??ekian Account of Four Iceberg Slim Novellas." Awarded by:University of New South Wales. School of English, 2001.

Fonseca, Fernando Facà de Assis. "Pensar a liberdade em Slavoj Zizek: uma reflexÃo sobre ciÃncia, ontologia, subjetividade e polÃtica emancipatÃria." Universidade Federal do CearÃ, 2015.

FONSECA, Fernando Facó de Assis. "Pensar a liberdade em Slavoj Zizek: uma reflexão sobre ciência, ontologia, subjetividade e política emancipatória.", 2015.


Bryar, Timothy Richard. "Doing Nothing: A Politics of Violent Inaction for Positive Peace." Thesis, The University of Sydney, 2016.

Yazici, Savas. "Encountering With The Real: A Critical Reading Of The Works Of Lacan, Laclau, Zizek And Badiou." Phd thesis, METU, 2007.

Zeiher, Cindy Lee. "The fantasy is the most real thing : exploring desire in the 21st Century : Zizek and ideology." Thesis, University of Canterbury. Sociology, 2014.

Magee, Neal E. Hamner M. Gail. "Remembering to forget theological tropologies of confession and disavowal (Saint Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, Slavoj Zizek, Jacques Derrida) /." Related electronic resource: Current Research at SU : database of SU dissertations, recent titles available full text, 2004.


Frost, Nylén Julia. ""Ingen big deal" : - En undersökning i kvinnligt dejtande på Tinder." Thesis, Högskolan i Gävle, Media- och kommunikationsvetenskap, 2019.

Bergström, Lucella. ""I feel that I was being written..." : Identitetsskapande i William S Burroughs romaner Junky och Queer." Thesis, Södertörns högskola, Institutionen för kultur och lärande, 2012.

Yannakis, Donna. "Violence and the other in the novels of Carmel Bird." Thesis, Edith Cowan University, Research Online, Perth, Western Australia, 2019.

Benjamin, Garfield. "The cyborg subject : parallax realities, functions of consciousness and the void of subjectivity." Thesis, University of Wolverhampton, 2014.

Watts, Oliver. "Power and Misrecognition: The Cordelia/Fool Series." Thesis, The University of Sydney, 2014.


Breckenridge, Adam. "Acts of Rebellion: The Rhetoric of Rogue Cinema." Scholar Commons, 2014.

Hibbert, Jeffrey D. "Room for Possibilities: James Joyce and the Rhetorical Work of Fiction." Diss., Temple University Libraries, 2008.

Mekki, Fatma. "Psychoanalytic maps of driving behavior inspired from Zizekian psychoanalysis : Tunisian context." Thesis, Lille 1, 2016.

Barichello, Luigi 1979. "De um discurso que não fosse ideologia = contribuições para uma teoria lacaniana da ideologia." [s.n.], 2012.

Teeple, Jamie Eric. "A Multidisciplinary Normative Evaluation of Media as an Educational Institution." University of Toledo / OhioLINK, 2013.

Tsoulou, Martha. "After postmodernism : contemporary theory and fiction." Thesis, Brunel University, 2014.

Duprat, Laura del Rocío. "El funcionamiento de la crítica ideológica en las historietas de aventuras en Argentina de 1960 a 1983." Bachelor's thesis, Universidad Nacional de Cuyo. Facultad de Ciencias Políticas y Sociales, 2013.

Boyle, Kirk. "The Catastrophic Real: Late Capitalism and Other Naturalized Disasters." University of Cincinnati / OhioLINK, 2009.

Dias, Brendali. "Uma crítica à lógica do capital da sociedade de consumo contemporânea: a contribuição da psicanálise lacaniana na perspectiva de Slavoj i ek." Pontifícia Universidade Católica de São Paulo, 2010.

Scott-Coe, Justin M. "Covenant Nation: The Politics of Grace in Early American Literature." Scholarship @ Claremont, 2012.

Steedman, Joshua M. "“To Excite the Feelings of Noble Patriots:” Emotion, Public Gatherings, and Mackenzie’s American Rebellion, 1837-1842." University of Toledo / OhioLINK, 2019.

Palm, Fredrik. "Det odödas analys : En studie av centralproblematiken i Slavoj Zizeks samhällsanalys." Doctoral thesis, Uppsala University, Department of Sociology, 2007.

This thesis examines the social theory of Lacanian philosopher Slavoj Žižek. It focuses on Žižek’s work between 1989 and 2006, and offers an interpretation based on a reading of three central concepts: the Other, fantasy, and the act. All these concepts occupy the intersection between Lacan’s three orders (Imaginary, Real, Symbolic), which in Žižek’s theory means that they express a tension shared by all social order. The first chapter approaches Žižek’s conception of “the social” through an introduction of the Lacanian concept of "the Other." Attention is paid to how (a) the Other is constitutively split between its role as a Symbolic network of signifiers, and its enigmatic (Real and Imaginary) capacity to support this Symbolic network; (b) a similar split marks several of Žižek’s Lacanian and Hegelian concepts. Moreover, the chapter contrasts Žižekian sociality with those of Giddens, Luhmann and Althusser. The second chapter gives an account of the topological place of fantasy in Žižek’s theory. Relating Žižek’s theory to Critical Theory, deconstruction and Deleuzian philosophy, fantasy is presented as a concept countering new forms of “bad infinity” (Hegel) in modern social theory. The third chapter links Žižek’s theory of the act to the theories of Judith Butler, Ernesto Laclau, and Alain Badiou. Commenting on Rex Butler’s brilliant reading of Žižek, the thesis argues that Butler’s definition of the act is too negative. Instead, the thesis proposes a definition which emphasises the act's productive dimension, insisting on how the act ultimately involves the transformation from masculine to feminine enjoyment. The last chapter critically observes the different treatments Lacan and Derrida receive in Žižek’s text. The argument concludes that the Žižekian text relapses into a "masculine logic of exception", insofar as it leaves Derrida’s phallus untouched, while treating Lacan as the only one lacking phallus.

Smejkal, Jan. "Vliv organických aditiv na elektrochemické procesy ovlivňující parametry akumulátorů Zinek-vzduch." Master's thesis, Vysoké učení technické v Brně. Fakulta elektrotechniky a komunikačních technologií, 2019.

Oenema-Mostert, Christine Elina. "Orthopedagogische thuisbegeleiding voor gezinnen met een jong chronisch ziek kind." [S.l. : [Groningen : s.n.] ; University Library Groningen] [Host], 2006.

Schirmer, Anderson. "Saindo dos armários? - a análise das políticas de identidade na formação da Parada do Orgulho GLBT de São Paulo: um contraponto pela psicanálise." Pontifícia Universidade Católica de São Paulo, 2010.

Sloup, Vladislav. "Vliv tasemnice (Hymenolepis diminuta) na bioakumulaci zinku v těle hostitele (Rattus norvegicus)." Doctoral thesis, Česká zemědělská univerzita v Praze, 2016.

Murdin, Alex. "Art in the public realm and the politics of rural leisure : access and environment." Thesis, University of Plymouth, 2015.

Luke, Nicholas Ian. "Shakespearean arrivals : the irruption of character." Thesis, University of Oxford, 2011.

Törnqvist, Alexander. "Språkanvändning och förståelsekonstituering vid lärande : Ett studium om alternativ till den sociokulturella teorin inom pedagogik." Thesis, Linköpings universitet, Institutionen för kultur och kommunikation, 2016.

Selig, Sandra. "The rhythmic disfiguration of vision : re-thinking subjectivity and art after minimalism." Thesis, Queensland University of Technology, 1999.

Mol, Annemarie Lieshout Peter van. "Ziek is het woord niet medicalisering, normalisering en de veranderende taal van huisartsgeneeskunde en geestelijke gezondheidszorg, 1945-1985 /." Amsterdam : Amsterdam University Press, 2008.

Lavi, Tali, and talilavi@netspace net au. "Tales of Ash: Phantom Bodies as Testimony in Artistic Representations of Terrorism." RMIT University. Creative Media, 2007.

Jungová, Michaela. "Vliv dlouhodobého hnojení travního porostu na obsah rizikových prvků v půdě." Master's thesis, Česká zemědělská univerzita v Praze, 2017.

Ročňáková, Ivana. "Vlastnosti a in vitro degradace kovových biodegradabilních materiálů." Doctoral thesis, Vysoké učení technické v Brně. Fakulta strojního inženýrství, 2017.

Rae, Allan. "The age of the screen : subjectivity in twenty-first century literature." Thesis, University of Stirling, 2015.

Kvapilová, Vendula. "Vliv uvolňování zinku při slinování na permeabilitu/indukčnost feritové keramiky." Master's thesis, Vysoké učení technické v Brně. Fakulta chemická, 2021.

LUSTOSA, Maria Anita Vieira. "O princípio filosófico/educativo do sujeito no contexto do capitalismo tardio: abordagem na filosofia de Žižek.", 2015.

Remešová, Michaela. "Technologie galvanické anodizace neželezných kovů a slitin." Master's thesis, Vysoké učení technické v Brně. Fakulta strojního inženýrství, 2015.

Krystýnová, Michaela. "Procesy přípravy a charakterizace objemového materiálu z prášků Mg a Zn." Master's thesis, Vysoké učení technické v Brně. Fakulta chemická, 2016.

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Žižek’s Left-Wing Case for Christian Atheism

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In his new book, Slavoj Žižek advances a provocative understanding of Christianity as a progressive, secularizing force. It’s classic Žižek — by turns brilliant and infuriating.

slavoj zizek phd thesis

Slavoj Žižek speaks during the opening ceremony of the Frankfurt Book Fair, October 17, 2023. (Arne Dedert / picture alliance via Getty Images)

Slavoj Žižek is many things to many people: the “Elvis of cultural theory,” the most “formidably brilliant” left philosopher in the world, a fraud , a Marxist, an apologist for anti-wokism, and more. But probably few people think “Christian theologian” when Žižek comes to mind. Yet the iconoclastic Slovenian thinker has spent decades engaging deeply with Christian theology and history, from books like The Fragile Absolute: Or, Why Is the Christian Legacy Worth Fighting For? to his debate with “radical orthodox” theologian John Milbank .

All this, despite professing not to believe in God. Žižek’s new book, Christian Atheism: How to Be a Real Materialist , is his most developed account of his materialist theology to date. It is also, like most of his books, a microcosm of Žižek’s oeuvre as a whole — it sees him weigh in on topics from politics to psychoanalysis, from The Last of Us to quantum mechanics. This eclecticism will no doubt reinforce charges from many of Žižek’s critics that he is a dilettante, and his tendency to weigh in on topics without tackling them in depth is sometimes frustrating.

But even for those of us who are already familiar with his work , there is a lot to like about Christian Atheism. Žižek deserves serious credit for invigorating the long-needed debate about the relationship between religion and the broader left, helping move us away from both crude denunciation and simple liberal toleration. It’s a swell book that deserves praise for what it accomplishes and (appropriately) forgiveness for its myriad sins.

Left Hostility to Religion

The young Karl Marx observed that the critique of religion is vital to radical agitation. Marx insisted we realize that “man makes religion, religion does not make man,” as he put in the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right . Criticizing religious dogma was needed for humankind to become self-conscious of its worldly constraints and its ability to change them, and to stop distracting ourselves from the task of remaking society with the promise of transcendent reconciliation beyond the temporal realm.

There were good reasons for left-wing critics like Marx to be wary of religion. From the French Revolution onward, right-wing thinkers from Edmund Burke to Joseph de Maistre through R. R. Reno have often insisted that religion plays a fundamentally conservative role in society. In Reflections on the Revolution in France , Burke lamented the new “all conquering empire of light and reason” that was stripping away all the “pleasing illusions” that glued society together in a pyramid of rank and order. To correct this, Burke insisted that “sublime principles ought to be infused into persons of exalted situations, and religious establishments provided that may continually revive and enforce them.” Otherwise, the “swinish multitude” might see through the sublime illusion of divine right and recognize that the king was but a man.

Today, in Resurrecting the Idea of a Christian Society , Reno insists that Christianity is necessary to save people from the “shallow, lawless, and brutal” would established by “elite demagogues.” These liberal elites wage a “class war, a war on the weak,” which “is epitomized by the campaign for gay marriage.” This supposed class war has allowed the upper class to benefit from the corrosion of Christian morality so its members can live libertine lifestyles, the consequences of which will be “paid for by the poor.”

Given this long history of right-wing intellectuals claiming religion for themselves, it should come as no surprise that the Left has often followed Marx in seeing religion as something to be criticized and undermined. But these criticisms come in different forms, and many on the Left have adopted religious outlooks that go beyond simple rejection. Žižek’s “materialist” Christianity falls squarely in this camp.

Shadows of the Cross

There is a kind of vulgar, materialist critique of religion that has long had purchase on the Left, which holds, roughly, that God is an illusion appealed to by ideological institutions aligned with the ruling class, a main effect of which is to pacify dissent from the status quo. This view likely has roots in the caustic critique of faith and religious institutions by Enlightenment figures like Voltaire and David Hume. From this perspective, the Left ought to condemn and reject religion outright, so as to focus the attention of the oppressed on worldly injustices and potential remedies.

Marx advanced a more complex materialist perspective. He is sometimes read as crudely endorsing the vulgar materialist critique, thanks to his characterization of religion as the “opiate of the masses” in the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right. But in the full quotation from which that famous phrase comes, Marx describes religion as “the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions.” He held that the emergence of religion can be understood socially as a kind of psychic compensation for the alienation and suffering human beings endured on Earth. So long as oppressive social conditions persisted, we could expect people to hold onto religious “illusions.”

Materialist criticism of religion, on Marx’s view, is therefore not only or even primarily about condemning religious faith — but instead about understanding the social conditions that make it necessary and transforming them. Only when such a revolutionary change takes place will the feelings of estrangement that necessitated religion disappear, as human beings become able to resolve their problems directly and rationally.

A third materialist perspective on religion, drawing on Marx, G. W. F. Hegel , and others, sees in socialism and other left movements a secularized continuation of a fundamentally Christian project. They follow Alexis de Tocqueville in thinking there is a deep affinity between Christian doctrine and the Left’s push for more equality: with its traditional elevation of the poor and humble and its castigation of the rich and powerful, Christianity is in an important respect a more natural ally for the Left than for the Right. As Tocqueville wrote in Democracy in America :

Of all religious doctrines, Christianity, whatever interpretation you give it, is also the one most favorable to equality. Only the religion of Jesus Christ has placed the sole grandeur of man in the accomplishment of duties, where each person can attain it; and has been pleased to consecrate poverty and hardship, as something nearly divine.

Critics of the Left have also suspected there was an affinity between its ideals and those of Christianity. Friedrich Nietzsche characterized socialism in The Will to Power as the “residue of Christianity and [Jean-Jacques] Rousseau” in a secularizing world. And Alasdair MacIntyre , back when he was a Marxist , argued in Marxism and Christianity that the Marxist tradition itself “humanized certain central Christian beliefs in such a way as to present a secularized Christian judgment upon, rather than the Christian adaptation to, the secular present.”

Žižek falls within this third tradition. The core of his argument, however, has always been more inspired by Hegel and French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan than by Marx. Following Hegel, Žižek argues that Christianity is distinct from many other religions in symbolically acknowledging the “death of God” through the crucifixion of Christ: God literally becomes humankind and then dies before being resurrected and ascending to heaven, after which the Holy Spirit comes to unite believers together in a community of free equals.

God Is Dead, and We Carry on His Legacy

Žižek’s reading of the Christian story is that God, as a transcendent guarantor of order and authoritative morality, dies, and human beings thereby come to understand that they are completely free. This is the ultimate “materialist” gesture, since it demystifies all the powers that claim legitimacy on the basis of a transcendent authority, and forces us to recognize the all-too-contingent and plastic nature of the social order:

What dies on the cross is not God’s earthly representative (stand in) but the God of beyond itself, what happens after the crucifixion is not a return of the transcendent One but the rise of the Holy Spirit which is the community of believers without any support in transcendence.

This echoes a similar claim that Nietzsche makes in The Genealogy of Morals , that it is misguided to see secularism as a force external to Christianity that undermined it. Nietzsche argued that the Christian belief in a transcendent God was in fact “destroyed by its own morality, in the same way Christianity as morality must now perish too. . . . After Christian truthfulness has drawn one inference after another, it must end by drawing its most striking inference, its inference against itself.”

Nietzsche wanted the death of God to herald the end of Christian morality, and lamented that it in fact survived in secular form in gentle egalitarian doctrines like liberalism and above all socialism . By contrast, Žižek sees Christianity’s self-secularization as the culmination of Christian ethics, with God dying and freeing humankind to take responsibility for its own existence.

This is where Žižek’s Christian “atheism” comes in. He holds that, historically, it is not sufficient to simply deny God’s existence, as though one can short-circuit ideology to directly apprehend material reality without illusion. A transition through religion was necessary, and Christianity deserves credit for narrativizing the death of God and the emergence of freedom and equality in the union of the Holy Spirit.

This idiosyncratic approach to religion is unlikely to win many converts from outside the Hegelian fold, though it is without a doubt suggestive and provocative. The claim that Christianity self-secularized and became leftist materialism suggests an interesting explanatory alternative to reductive stories about religion’s decline that (e.g.) simply assume religious faith lost its grip on the imagination with the rise of scientific rationalism.

It is unfortunate, then, that Žižek’s presentation of his arguments is not more rigorous or systematic, in the mode of, say, Charles Taylor’s epochal A Secular Age . A thesis as bold and controversial as the one advanced in Christian Atheism requires careful defense, beyond flashes of impressionistic connection and suggestive argumentation. It would require a deep historical exegesis that traces developments in Christian theology and practice carefully and programmatically, demonstrating how transitions and influences unfolded.

This could then be accompanied by a systematic theological defense of Christian atheism, in the vein of something like socialist Paul Tillich ’s Systematic Theology . Until we get such a treatment, Christian atheist materialism will remain more a provocative idea than a creed to live by.

Nevertheless, Žižek merits praise for presenting a distinctive take on Christianity, that, if nothing else, might persuade the Left to take religious issues more seriously. This is especially important in an era when forms of illiberal and authoritarian religious nationalism are on the march. Progressives and socialists need to avoid the kind of crude materialism implicit in Barack Obama’s dismissal of those who cling to guns and religion as a compensation for their material woes — they need a thoughtful perspective on the place of religious faith in history and in the social order.


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