Ritual and Fashion
Žižek on "radical" academics
September 12, 2012
This excerpt from a 2008 article by Slavoj Žižek has been sitting in my notebook for a while, and I thought I'd post it.
My personal experience is that practically all of the "radical" academics silently count on the long-term stability of the American capitalist model, with the secure tenured position as their ultimate professional goal (a surprising number of them even play on the stock market). If there is a thing they are genuinely horrified of, it is a radical shattering of the (relatively) safe life environment of the "symbolic classes" in the developed Western societies. Their excessive Politically Correct zeal when dealing with sexism, racism, Third World sweatshops, etc., is thus ultimately a defense against their own innermost identification, a kind of compulsive ritual whose hidden logic is: "Let's talk as much as possible about the necessity of a radical change to make sure that nothing will really change!
A classic Žižek move, and the sort that makes him so entertaining. He goes on to cite the journal October as a case-in-point. By referring to the October Revolution in the journal's title, the editors and authors avoid having to deal with the matter further. Instead, "one can indulge in the jargonistic analyses of modern art, with the hidden assurance that one is somehow retaining the link with the radical revolutionary past." The resulting "pseudo-radical" academic Leftists, Žižek concludes, adopt "an attitude of utter disdain, while their own radicality ultimately amounts to an empty gesture which obligates no one to anything determinate." And so radicalism becomes a kind of brand-name, like wearing Prada (it's black, after all!). The best thing about Žižek is that he's constantly hoist on his own petard, but unlike so many he seems to enjoy dangling up there.
(via Duane Rousselle)