Category Archives: Slavoj Žižek

Is Slavoj Žižek Overrated?


Standpoint has a feature called “Overrated” in which contributers take shots at people they think are overrated. Recent objects of scorn include Joe Biden, John Stuart Mill, and Edward Said. In November of 2008, Jeremy Jennings went after Slavoj Žižek.

First, Jennings compliments Žižek:

There is much to admire about Slavoj Žižek. He spent his early adult years as a dissident in the former Yugoslavia, suffering at the hands of the authorities. He refuses to play the conventional role of the leftist intellectual. He cannot abide orthodoxy, preferring the role of gadfly to prophet, jester to sage. He is hostile to postmodernism (describing himself as a “card-carrying Lacanian”) and despises the politics of multiculturalism for its reduction of all questions to problems of toleration and difference. He is rude to vegetarians and has no sympathy for humanitarians like Bill Gates, intent on solving the world’s ills through charity.

Then he lays into him for what he sees as his advocation of violence:

It is at the very end of In Defense of Lost Causes, when he holds out the prospect of impending ecological catastrophe, that Žižek most clearly sketches the chilling vision of what he takes to be an emancipatory politics of “revolutionary-democratic terror”. First would be a strict egalitarian justice: the same norms of per capita energy consumption, carbon dioxide emissions, and so on, would be imposed on everyone. Next would be terror, including “ruthless punishment”, severe limitations on liberal freedoms, and technological control of “prospective” law-breakers. Third would be recourse to voluntarism in the form of “large-scale collective decisions” running counter to the logic of capitalism. Finally, all this would be combined with trust in the people, the wager that the vast majority of people would support these “severe measures” and would be “ready to participate in their enforcement”. Such would be egalitarian-revolutionary terror. It amounts to a reinvented version of the dictatorship of the proletariat.

Viewed alongside Adam Kirsh’s Žižek hit job in The New Republic and Geoff Boucher’s critique of Žižek in The Charmed Circle of Ideology, do Jennings’s comments suggest the jig is up for Žižek, or are his rapidly multiplying legions of critics missing something crucial about the man and his ideas in their efforts to expose him as a fraud?

Adam Kirsch vs. Slavoj Zizek

Adam Kirsch fired the first shot. Josh Strawn, from out of nowhere, leaped to Zizek’s defense. Zizek, of course, had to respond himself. Kirsch then had to respond to Zizek’s response. Oy! When will it end?

Zizek’s Least Favorite Job

When asked “What is the worst job you’ve done?” by the Guardian recently, Slavoj Zizek, in typical Zizek fashion, answered, “Teaching. I hate students, they are (as all people) mostly stupid and boring.”

Now, he might be right about most students being stupid and boring (though copping such an attitude displays a tremendous amount of arrogance), but, oddly enough, therein lies one of the pleasures of teaching. To paraphrase something designer Milton Glaser once said, there’s nothing more exciting than seeing a student go from a condition of inertness and inattentiveness to showing an interest in learning new things.