Žižek is an actor of the spectacle

There is a lot to say and discuss about Slavoj Žižek, however here I’d like to limit the discussion to what I’ve witnessed in my experience of the last year, observations through media and the points raised by Mark Carrigan’s critique of Žižek.

First of all, we should all recognize that Žižek is not an academic or scholar in a conventional sense. Of course, to be an academic in this sense is not an obligation for intellectual, sociological, philosophical or theoretical production more broadly; for instance, the late Jean Baudrillard also refrained from working in this way. However nobody seriously disputed his being an academic or scholar. Baudrillard’s philosophical line has taken its place in the main roads of Western Philosophy.

It seems that, for Slavoj Žižek, the corpus of his work emerges in TV shows, interviews, news and that what exists in between (books, articles, serious conferences, Etc.) are just like a net, connections making these essential components (short and flashy) reach each other. As Mark Carrigan explained: Slavoj Žižek became “the superstar professor able to float free of any limiting norms of collegiality or professionalism.” The main orientation of his intellectual praxis has less in common with Hegel, Marx, Freud, Lacan than with Lady Gaga and other celebrities of global popular culture, stars of Hollywood and MTV. This reminds me Pierre Bourdieu’s “fast-thinker” concept and we can even go a little bit further and call him as a “fast sayer”. Because with any breaking events Žižek’s short, “striking” comments and talks are emerge almost automatically.

If somebody (he, his followers or criticizers) define him as “Marxist”, then there would be a real misunderstanding of Marx’s ideas. Žižek is a popular and compatible part of the puzzle that global authorities (and also their opponents) can put wherever there is a need. Žižek is an actor of the spectacle. Guy Debord (a Marxist for sure) said: “The spectacle, considered as the reigning society’s method for paralyzing history and memory and for suppressing any history based on historical time, represents a false consciousness of time.” Žižek’s analyses of social, political, historical issues hinder the possibility for a comprehensive and profound history of humanity. I am really curious what a scholar of philosophy, psychology, political sciences or history who spends their life in libraries for decades, thinks when they see Slavoj Žižek talks about the field of their specialization with a few sentences in a TV show or newspaper. Many of them would keep calm, some of them maybe just smile, however I’m pretty sure that some would get really angry.

Slavoj Žižek’s works have become an attainable and accessible reverse Objet Petit A, which you can reach through a Google search if you have limited time and with more detailed readings if you have more time and a professional purpose. It is a widely consumable form of Lacanian thought. You read his “magical words” and get enlightened quickly! Everything is clear to you now: Lacan, Marx, Middle Eastern politics, Hitchcock or Lynch films. A theory cover everything without being a system; playing a part in the global spectacle yet remaining ‘critical’. The more Žižek embraces a place in the global media of late capitalism the less he becomes a part of those theoretical lines moving through Marx, Freud, Lacan etc. Žižek is moving beyond the legitimate borders of academia.

Kubilay Akman is a sociologist and academic teacher at the University of Bingol, Turkey. He graduated in sociology and completed his PhD at Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University, Istanbul. His research interests are Sociology of Arts, Sociological Theory, Sociology of Literature and Mysticism. He has focused on Sociotherapy recently.

Categories: Rethinking The World

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  1. “I am really curious what a scholar of philosophy, psychology, political sciences or history who spends their life in libraries for decades, thinks when they see Slavoj Žižek talks about the field of their specialization with a few sentences in a TV show or newspaper”

    I am really curious what a scholar of philosophy, psychology, political sciences or history who spends their life in libraries for decades, thinks when they see that reality has diverged from the dream theatres that seemed so perfect in the library. I am no advocate of Žižek but he does seem to try and confront the spectacle on its own terms, perhaps a foolish strategy but one that circulates the ideas of Marx, Freud, Lacan, etc far more effectively than a ‘conventional scholar’ shut away in a nice, safe library.

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