Participatory Spirituality for the 21st Century
It's time to give the man his own thread, since he is certainly deserving. Here are the posts from the integral capitalism thread as introduction:
There was an interesting phenomenon in german newspapers this week: The Leftist Party "Die LINKE" started the discussion about Communism once again, and, while there were violent outbreaks at the site of the speech, and while the uproar by the Bourgois Upper Class was deafening ("GULAG! STALINISM! INSANITY!"), the discussion managed to get some attention at Prime Time in the Political Talk Shows. It was interesting to note that the audience was very divided about the subject, each fraction applauding only their own ambassadors. Still, this is an unprecedented event, and quite Extraordinary.
Also I'm half way through Zizek's "Living in the end Times". Once more it's a tour de force across psychoanalysis, Ontology and Politics. He gives an updated version of 21st century marxism, countering the most common misunderstandings and false associations that are still linked with the notion "communism". E.g. he does not abandon the "Class Struggle" approach, but rather links it to Ontology, basically saying that Class Struggle precedes society and is something like a 'given'. As far as I understand, this is.
Last, I found Big Z's use of the terms "Young Hegeliana" and "Old Hegelians" interesting. If I were asked to apply this concept to the Integral World, I'd say that KW obviously belongs to the Hegelian Right (or Old Hegelians), in line with Fukuyama and the NeoCons/NeoLibs. IOW: Conservative, rich and well-dressed. Zizek et al's Neo-Communism would then mark the other extreme, belonging to the Leftist "Young Hegelians". And so on and so on.
In the early part of video 1 he talks about the psychologizing of capitalism, i.e., rationalizing it as if we can control it with our positive attitudes. Very much like the criticism of positive psychology referenced earlier of which integral capitalism is but one example. Zizek is more in line with what Wilber was saying above, that the economic system is a major force in reversing that notion, that it is more in control of the individual than the other way around. So we end up justifying the system with how much good we can do with all that money. And believing that in our higher consciousness we can control it, tame it, just like good old Jack Abramoff and kennilinguists. You see, we meditate, we disidentify with our selves, and we become immune to such memetic, economic programming, we gain power over it with our special skills...so we can therefore partake of it, just the good parts...
Further into part 1 (15 - 20 minutes) he criticizes China's burgeoning capitalism on the one hand for being authoritarian, and that same authoritarianism in its State socialism, for neither are based on democracy.
Around 34 minutes in he criticizes a return to the old communism but then criticizes the left for its old forms too, including social democracy. He thinks only the radical left can revision the solution, but it must start anew and leave the old forms behind.
At around 45 minutes he says our future lies down the road of Italian politics, like Groucho Marx in Duck Soup in power. Grim indeed.
I have a rather strong resistance to the label, "communism," simply because it seems that wherever it has appeared on the ground, it has not been a successful system and has, more often than not, also been founded on (even contributed to) a great deal of human suffering. (I'm referring to self-described communist systems, not progressive social democracies such as those in Sweden or a few other European countries). In Nepal right now, the "Maoists" are committing regular atrocities against individuals in the name of a collective, idealized vision of the future (that appears more than willing to "break a few eggs" to make an omelet). I'm speaking from personal experience here, since my sister-in-law is a political asylum-seeker and her father was actually kidnapped and held hostage by violent Maoist thugs. I'm not saying capitalist democracies are without their own share of problems, and their own quite checkered histories, nor am I saying that I think the present system is "good enough" or needs to continue -- I agree with the call for a radical revisioning, and I also agree with a number of Marx's critiques of capitalist systems -- but when it comes to envisioning a way forward, "communism" is not an attractive alternative to me, at least not in any form that has manifested so far.
Agreed about the self-described communist States that have so far existed. So does Zizek. After finishing that first video I was disappointed though because while he maintains he's a radical communist he says he doesn't know what form that will take, only that it hasn't yet. I hope that he explores how this might manifest, at least in what directions, in his book.
As for democratic socialism and social democracy (similar but not the same), there we have examples of something that works right now, not completely or without problems, but addresses several of the disasters of capitalism.
We get a bit more clarity in this article, "Introduction: Zizek's communism and In Defense of Lost Causes" (International Journel of Zizek Studies, 4:2, 2010). I find it interesting the use of the word "terror" in this context:
"In place of the militant defense of human rights, passionate support for an extension of democracy and the multicultural politics of the struggle for recognition, Žižek advocates what he calls 'emancipatory terror' (IDLC, p. 164), strict egalitarian justice and the dictatorship of the proletariat.
"In IDLC, Žižek maintains that there is a progressive moment in the revolutionary terror of the French Revolution, in Stalin’s forced collectivizations, and in Mao’s Cultural Revolution. Žižek seems to approve the application of force, or 'terror,' in support of a policy of egalitarian justice, and he finds in forced collectivization a radical step forward on the path of industrialization. He locates in the popular impetus unleashed by the Cultural Revolution the embryonic form of a utopian political alternative. Žižek’s program of egalitarian communism is to be actualized by a group dictatorship that will represent the interests of the radically disenfranchised worldwide and will implement policies aiming at material equality in the context of ecological sustainability."
In the first video Zizek talks about the Right in America taking over this revolutionary spirit and rhetoric. Hence we get the Tea Party having such a big influence in the last election, and their generally violent rhetoric and imagery. This terrorizes politicians and corporate leaders, an actual armed rebellion. Hence with this latest shooting in Arizona the Left immediately and accurately points fingers at the Tea Party rhetoric, and Sara Palin, as inciting this type of violence. And yet this is what Zizek is criticizing in the Left, this reaction against the proletariat using their power in numbers to threaten a terrifying armed rebellion. And he thinks it is the radical Left that must enter this arena with exactly this type of threat, since the Right is only going to reinforce the corporate agenda and only the Left will fight for the people.
He is right about the Left being spineless, and he might also be right about something as drastic as the terror of an armed rebellion by the proletariat. I might be naive in still hoping for a semi-peaceful reform movement through democratic socialism. He certainly thinks so. In the Zizekian frame maybe the computer communism of Zeitgeist isn't too far off?
I like the UK Telegraph's review of his book on end times, particularly this excerpt relevant to our recent discussions:
"Žižek’s point – which he surely shares with a long line of philosophical moralists, from St Augustine to Freud – is that it is our most 'natural' and 'caring' urges that can lead us either into the silliest fantasies (the sacred intensity' of The Sound of Music) or the horrors enacted by the likes of Fritzl [who raped his daughter and abused her children by him]."
I found this review of 'Living in the end times', written by Rob White in The Philosophers Magazine:
>>Slavoj Žižek claims that we are heading towards disaster, “an apocalyptic zero-point”. Signs of the coming catastrophe include environmental despoliation, genetic-engineering technology that may “affect the very definition of humanity”, major economic imbalances (Žižek mentions intellectual property and disputes over scarce natural resources as examples), and the emergence of apartheid regimes in places like Dubai. Žižek discusses all of these areas in Living in the End Times as he mounts another sustained attack on neoliberal capitalism, which he claims is not only the cause of the calamity but also the spin-doctoring machine that distracts us from it. The circumstances are grave and yet something better may emerge out of the mayhem: a communist enactment of “the immortal idea of freedom”. (Žižek approvingly quotes Mao: “There is great disorder under heaven, the situation is excellent”.) Living in the End Times is a militant work, “a book of struggle”.
I'd love to add my own personal intellectual struggle with Zizek's hypyperactive output, as soon as time allows.
I learned to appreciate Zizek's writing style immediately after I finished his 'psychoanalysis and german idealism', back in 2005. I was hooked instantly, intruiged by the creative weirdness and ideas he put into my head. At that time I was a student of Psychology and had only recently discovered the writings of Foucault, thus I was occasionally browsing the Philosphy Department's book shelves for more food for thought. And WHAM! Rather unsuspectingly I stumbled into the dazzling comet tail of Zizek's inellectual output. From here, I found his book 'On belief', which I also mentioned in my first ever integral post, it must have been around 2006, shortly after Integral Spirituality came out. Which reminds me that there has been no major theoretical output from Wilber since then.
Zizek has written about 60 books since 1972 and has been widely translated into the most common languages. From early on, he focussed on Lacan's Approach to psychoanalysis, applying it to film critique, Marxism, subject theory, feminism, social theory, revolutionary christianity and so on. His latest books, especially 'In Defence of lost causes' and 'First as tragedy, then as farce' deal with the current state of the world and the political options we have today. Both are brilliant Analysis of our present times, with a slight leaning on the communist side of the street, of course. Z is drawing from Badiou, explaing and critiqueing his work, while delineating it from other leftists like Simon Critchley or Hardt and Negri who are contemporary Deleuzians for example.
His realtionship with Deleuze is worth mentioning. He barely mentions him at all, and when he does, he treats him like a bastard child of his own thinking, as a comrade, or a rival, or an favorite enemy. IOW they are competitors for philosopher's crown of our time (with Habermas being the Shadow Pope). Fo' Sure.
As a starter, I recommend Zizek's excellent little book 'On belief' about the religions in the light of the Lacanian analysis. Also 'The Parallax View' which is a bit more theoretical but sums up Zizeks position quite well. For more visual types, the documentary 'Zizek!' does a good job in introducing what this is all about. also the various Online resources, especially from the European graduate school in Switzerland.
All in all, it's really hard to sum up Z's body of work; he keeps on throwing out books faster than I can read and digest them. This publication frenzy must be part of some strategy that I can't see through; maybe it's just his way to balance himself and maintain his peace of mind. Love your symptom, as they say.
Sounds very much like Margret Attwoods 'Oryx and Crake' and 'The Year of the Flood'.
"Sounds very much like Margret Attwoods 'Oryx and Crake' and 'The Year of the Flood'."
Yes, maybe, except that Zizek's book is non-fiction.
I find it interesting that he named the five chapters of the book after the process of grief as known by Kuebler-Ross: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance.
Which phase are you in?
On the Sloterdijk thread, I stumbled across a passage that seemed to fit into the concept of the "Parallax" that Zizek introduces in his book with the same name.
In short, we speak of a parallaxe when a shift in perspective also causes a substantial change in the object that is observed. The classic example for this is the Wave/particle indecision in postmodern physics. According to Z., the change in the object is caused by the parallactic gap, a duality between two intertwined perspectives between whom no common denominator is possible. They exist on two opposing sides of the moebius strip and can never be united or 'aufgehoben' in a higher synthesis (except maybe in the imaginary). The parallactic gap seperates the object from itself so it can never quite actualize itself. IOW in order to see the "other side" of any coin, you first have to change your perspective or you just won't see it. It's as easy as that.
Zizek gives a range of examples and applications for his concept:
There's the Parallax of the ontological differance between the ontic and the transcendental-ontological; the scientific parallax between phenomenolgical experience and scientific explanation/rationalization (example: modern neurology of the brain); the artistic Parallax which makes an object an artwork and seperates it from, say, a sanitary object, and finally the political Parallax which expresses itself in social antagonisms with no common ground between opposing parties to find a sustainable solution.
BTW there will be a public debate/conversation with Slavoj Zizek and Julian Assange on Sa, 2 July in London. A good opportunity to "hear two of the world’s most prominent thinkers discuss some of the most pressing issues of our time". (Source) I'm optimistic that this conversation will appear online at some point.
on saturday i was out shopping with my honeygurl and was browsing the philosophy section at the book warehouse. will durant's, 'a history of philosophy', first caught my eye as i read his history of western civilization and his writing style jived with my reading style. but right below that book was zizek's , 'living in the end times'. as i picked the book up i noticed a fearless little silverfish on the cover and my choice was made. gotta love jung! and sure enough, i'm loving it! the bit about the law of manu was indeed timely and his rants on shit a bit later are hilarious.....
so, thanks christophe and thanks to kela, too!
In case you missed the Live-Stream, the entire conversation by Zizek & Assange, hosted by Amy Goodman is available here. It's about one and a half hours filled with world politics, US outsourcing of torture, Bradley Manning, the future of wikileaks and so on and so on. ahaha
Assange speaks like an important CEO of some idealistic non-gov organisation, well I guess he is exactly that. Zizek gets more laughs from the audience, as always, entertaining and subversive, what else do you desire.
highlight: Zizek officially denies having an affair with Lady Gaga. Shocking!
In part three of the "parallax" book, Zizek gives an illuminating example from the arts (:music) in order to get a handle on the differentiation between modernism and postmodernism.
The example is this: modernism seems to include the logic of the prohibition/ restriction while postmodernism does not.
In music history, this case can be exemplified by the atonal/ 12tone music produced by Schoenberg et al., which use a set of very strict, self-inflicted rules and restrictions in order to get away/differentiate from the compulsions of tonal music. This, as Adorno noted earlier, is the Paradox of "New Music" or Modern Music.
The Postmodern, by contrast, is best represented by Strawinski's free and playful adoption of all styles past and known.
In Integral terms, modernism is still differentiating from the "real thing" and finds himself in alienation, therefore is in need of prohibition/taboo to hold its position. In "Green" postmodern, the differentiation is done, the "thing in itself" is irretrievably lost, therefore "anything goes" and nothing really matters anymore.
To complete the Triangle, all that's missing is the persistence on the position of traditional (amber). Speaking with Deleuze, there's nothing more radical than a return/repetition to/of an older position with a minimal difference. Thus (and Zizek seems to take this rather seriously) the traditional branch (in music) is still to be considered by music critics and not taken too lightly. Example for this position (and its authentic failure) is Jean Sibelius, composer of the Finlandia.
So here we have the three major cultural memes of our times, woven together in a superb muscial composition, and exemplified by the three greatest musical geniuses of the last century: Here go
Schoenberg for Orange/Modernism with Atonal Music
Strawinski with his freedom/detachedness for Green/Postmodern
Sibelius for the (failing) insistence of the traidtional (Amber).
Voila! Culture Wars explained.