the contextual life

thoughts without borders

notes from a Lost Cause…

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“quotes”, paraphrases, and thoughts on zizek’s In Defense of Lost Causes

“the hegemony of the scientific discourse thus potentially suspends the entire network of symbolic tradition that sustains the subject’s identifications.” pg. 33


democracy requires a non-democratic element for it’s health.  
“if, as the musings of Spinoza and Tocqueville suggest, democracies tend towards cathexis [investment of mental or emotional energy in a person, object, or idea] onto principles antitheoretical to democracy, then critical scrutiny of these principles and of the political formations animated by them is crucial to the project of refounding or recovering democracy.” pg. 103 (zizek quoting wendy brown).


“… the Lacanian Real which, at its most radical level, is the disavowed X on account of which our vision of reality is anamorphically distorted: it is simultaneously the Thing to which direct access is not possible and the obstacle which prevents this direct access, the Thing which eludes our grasp and the distorting screen which makes us miss the Thing. More precisely, the Real is ultimately the very shift of perspective from the first to the second standpoint.” pg. 127

anamorphic: producing, relating to, or marked by intentional distortion of an image.

anyone who is vaguely familiar with zizek will have heard of Lacan. from what little i know of Lacan, i know that his concept of the Real is pretty important. i had a vague sense of what it was just from the name but, as mentioned before in the main post, zizek is an educator and he kindly laid out what he thinks the Real is.

zizek is a name-dropper but he does it well. from reading the russian revolutionaries, german socialists, and anarchists, i’d figured out that the french revolution was a defining moment in europe. everyone who had thoughts of an alternative society had feelings about the french revolution. i also knew some guy robspierre at the head and that something went very wrong and that everyone, both the left and the right, called it the Terror. zizek gets into all this with some interesting analyses. what i liked most was his descriptions of robspierre.

“… for Robspierre, revolutionary terror is the very opposite of war: Robspierre was a pacifist, not out of hypocrisy or humanitarian sensitivity, but because he was well aware that war between nations as a rule serves as the means to obfuscate revolutionary struggle within each nation. Robspierre’s speech “On War” is of special importance today: it shows him as a true peace-lover who ruthlessly denounces the patriotic call to war, even if the war is formulated as the defense of the revolution, for it is the attempt of those who want “revolution without revolution” to divert the radicalization of the revolutionary process.” pg. 161

just from that little bit, you get a good idea about how this guy thought. but the fleshing out of him continues:

“I say that anyone who trembles at this moment is guilty; for innocence never fears public scrutiny” – Robspierre

to which zizek says, ” What can be more “totalitarian” than this closed loop of “your very fear of being guilty makes you guilty” – a weird superego-twisted version of the well-known motto “the only thing to fear is fear itself.” ”  

and finally, robspierre’s totally rebellious “rejection of habit”. zizek defines the “domain of habit” as “a complex “reflexive” network of informal rules which tells us how we are to relate to the explicit norms, how we are to apply them: to what extent we are to take them literally, how and when are you allowed, solicited even, to disregard them…” pg. 171

for example, refusing something because the offer was only meant to be polite – and doing so as if the refusal is really your choice. robspierre didnt play these games. he defied tradition. zizek explains, “… revolutionary-egalitarian figures from Robspierre to John Brown are (potentially at least) figures without habits; they refuse to take into account the habits that qualify the functioning of a universal rule.”

robspierre was obviously an interesting character…


Written by Gabrielle

October 13, 2009 at 9:06 pm

Posted in books

Tagged with ,

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