A Comment Upon Zizek’s Recent Talk in Spain, June 2017.
Reality, Naivety and Addiction.
I know that everyone likes to have an opinion, and they also like for everyone else to have an opinion – no; they demand that what anyone has to say is an opinion.
I ask: What happens when someone does not have an opinion? What does that mean? Can you, the reader, think of someone saying something, putting forth a proposal that is not an opinion? What are the conditions involved with someone having an opinion? What is occurring that everyone has an opinion?
These are questions I think very few, if anyone, consider. I think most would think it useless and silly if not contradictory in its nature, to consider what conditions must exist for someone not to be proposing an opinion.
I begin this post in this manner because of the overwhelming consistency in which Slavoj Zizek comes off. It is almost spookey. How does someone not only have such a consistent approach upon matters, but then also have a theoretical platform that not only supports this consistency but is then the substance by which such a consistency indeed has consistency? It is almost magical. Maybe that’s why Zizek has been deemed the Elvis of critical theory. I love it.
My proposal here is that Zizek is conveying no opinion. His opinion arises through a kind of misappropriation of what is occurring, and by this feature, opens possibility to opinion. I will leave it to you readers to think about that and what I could mean by it while we step into a recent appearance in Spain, June 2017:
Now; I admit I have not listened to the whole thing; only the first 30 minutes. But enough things came up in that introduction to warrant a good post, I think, so, here it goes.
Consider how he begins his talk: Under an assumption of naivety. What does he mean by that?
In this moment, under this banner, it is almost as if he anticipated my earlier post where I point out the flaw of his entry in his book “Event”; it is also as if I anticipated this very lecture (above) by pointing out the contradiction. It is almost as if Zizek and Myself were involved in some sort of atemporal synchronicity, an event that would be then utterly psychoanalytical in theoretical nature – lol. But we mustn’t really think too much into this.
Ironically, if we are tempted to think into this situation too much we could be indicating just what Zizek might be meaning by his ‘naïve’ approach to this lecture. For, he is saying that, just for a moment (the moment of this lecture), he is defining a space whereby his presentation will not necessarily reduce back into the psychanalytical order. And this is to say that he is giving notice that he is going to step out of the ecstatic space where in everything will be topsy-turvy, where the slave will become master, where what seems apparent is not the case – he is making notice that for this particular lecture the ‘carnival’ will be suspended. This is to answer my post (above) by telling us that he will be standing on a stage where there are individual agents of personal thoughts, opinions and activities; basically, what he admits also: His lecture is mainly political. He is going to act like a regular critical theorist without the psychoanalyst riding along and making comments.
He is going to be naïve.
In this space, this political position, he is going to make no comments from the psychoanalytical chair about the situation. So what is he leaving out of his talk by this segregation? Can we speak to what might be occurring psychoanalytically?
His question, by which he asserts a new kind of social bureaucracy, he frames: What occurs after the carnival, after, as he puts it, that state where one is ‘eternally mobilized’, which is to say, within the ecstatic disruption? What are we to do afterwards?
Why would he need to frame things in this way? The first question that pops into my head is when the carnival was? When did this perpetual upheaval occur? We really shouldn’t look to any theoretical proposal – rather, I think the semantic argumentative contents of a theory is not the right place to look (of course we could look there). The reason we would be better looking elsewhere than back onto a theoretical position is we would not find the carnival there and commonly would not find anything upended or opposite, we would only find the quite ordered theory that was making sense of the carnival (Zizek makes note of his own manner, that he isn’t going to drop these ironic bombs on this lecture, commenting upon how sometimes he speaks upon somethings sarcastically or opposite of what he is saying). He could be referring to other theories, but I think he is referring to a particular psychoanalytical moment wherein the subject is in confrontation with its object of desire, involved in the attempt to situate the upheaval of the symbolic world by the imaginary, through the event of what is real.
In this lecture, Zizek is situating the alienation that occurs due to this confronting event within the political realm, and calls this political mechanism of subjective alienation bureaucracy: The institutionalization of that subjectivity which should remain ideally invisible to the subject, but which most often reveals itself by its dysfunction, is actually alienating the subject that is using that political system. He thus suggests a Socialist Bureaucracy as a better type of political institution than what we see of our Democratic Bureaucracy.
We can find the psychoanalytical aspect by understanding that the bureaucracy maintains the order even while the carnival is going on, that it is a kind of ‘mirror’ of the subjective alienation, that is not being recognized while the carnival is going on; the ‘substance’ or ‘material’ of the reflection is a political bureaucracy, in this case, the dysfunction of which is itself the effect of alienation. We return to our question here to find out what might be said of the subject of psychoanalysis when it is not recoursed into the political symbol. This is to ask, what of the subject of psychoanalysis itself?
The symbolic manifestation of the State Bureaucracy can be a good analogy for alienation because the confusion that brings about as well as manifests alienation as a lived experience can also be associated in the political world with the system of rules and procedures, as well as the people who uphold, enact and conform to these procedures, by which the state can accomplish things. It is a real manifestation of perceived alienation from the subject; the citizen often has much difficulty negotiating or even figuring out the rationale behind bureaucratic procedures. Likewise, the alienated subject of psychoanalysis is confused and has difficulty in discovering the sense of the ‘carnival’, of the intrusion of the Real into the Imagined sense of Symbolic order.
It is not very difficult then to look around and see what occurs ‘after’ the carnival: The carnival persists. In terms of Zizek’s noted ‘subject of trauma’, we find an immediate association with the subject of modernity; it is the post-modern subject that finds itself in the carnival. At every turn of investigation, the ordered sense that is the modern state becomes confused as the subject of modernity finds itself ‘alienated’ from the (orderly) world that was (is) known. In the attempt to get to the root of the postmodern confusion, the alienated subject of psychoanalysis finds ‘nothing’ at the end of the investigation, the nil subject. The subject under investigation finds that the very terms of the investigation are faulty: She is alienated from her own world.
But this is not what occurs right off. The subject that finds this ‘end’ is first incredulous, that is, as Jean-François Lyotard has given us, ‘incredulous toward metadiscourses’. The alienated subject of modernity searches for a ground of her alienation and finds, in the end, that there is no ground for it, that ironically this is the cause of her trauma, she thus becomes incredulous toward her world, what she knows of it as well as what is said of it, as the world is nothing but a series of discourses suspended in nothingness. It is not that somehow due to theoretical proposals everyone becomes doubtful of the world; everyone in fact has a complete world at all times. The idea that people become doubtful of their world due to some theoretical sensibility is a contradiction in terms, but a contradiction that indicates the carnival that no one can make sense out of, or rather, the sense they make complies with whatever the frame that supplies ‘questioning’, or doubt of authority of metanarratives. This is why we can speak of two routes (see my earlier posts), because so many people see theory as indicating a sort of agenda, as they are supposed to think a certain way because a theoretical position makes sense in various ways, as though their opinion is formed in segregation to the idea of the opinion.
This manner is the opposite of the psychoanalytical approach. The discrepancy in conception thus shows us that there is a disconnect occurring between what is true and what is real, a disconnect that amounts to what we understand as ‘alienation’ that cannot and will not be overcome through the symbolic mechanizations of the (current) state bureaucracy, and yet we cannot do without such a state system, eternally dysfunctional, indeed, eternally mobilized.
Zizek is speaking of certain philosophical moments wherein psychoanalysis finds occasions to use discourse. We have, though, the carnival occurring as we speak, regardless of what theoretical concepts we might entertain for a solution, for it is not the case that the theory drives psychoanalysis; it is psychoanalysis that drives theory (under certain conditions).
In this case, then, we have Zizek entertaining the notion of what might occur once the carnival stops. Of course, this is a speculative idea because he is not speaking about any actualized ending of the political dance of types but rather about a philosophical moment; this type he proposes is a contradiction in terms, and thereby unrealizable (or totally imaginable). Psychoanalysis is a constant mode based within shifting views of parallax; the political aspect of society will not go away, it will only change forms, but the only way that Zizek can speculate upon such matters is because he intuitively knows his Socialist Bureaucracy will not happen: He is speaking, making this proposal under the condition of naivety. The carnival does not stop, but indeed would require what he suggests is a kind Socialist Bureaucracy if it were to stop. But a bureaucratic socialism is a manner of situating psychoanalytical contradictory situations. As he points out, the problem with what we know (or have witnessed) as socialism is that it is, indeed, problematic; he is calling for a ‘pure’ kind of socialism, one that runs smoothly, invisibly, as he says, one that “I do not notice as it functions”; a functional bureaucracy would be one, as he says (paraphrase), ‘that determines everything I do but without me knowing it’. But it never runs that smoothly on the ground in actuality, that is why we can be sure that he is speaking, not figuratively or ‘down a hole’ (into or of nothing), but of an actual philosophical moment, which is to say, a ‘post-trauma’ psychoanalytical condition. When we remove the naivety of the moment, we are left with the ‘fully aware and cognizant’ moment where psychoanalysis must filter everything through its vanishing point. This point is, of course, the subject and due to its quality of being naught, if we are to experience this cognition, that is to say, without a certain ironic distance, it is, again of course, that moment where everything is topsy-turvy.
The question that arises here, though, is why this subjectivity does not appear topsy-turvy (like a carnival) but usually at best appears only so within a theoretical construct of critique? Yes; the on the ground political situation often appears convoluted and chaotic, but it does not usually appear like the allusion of the carnival, where, for example, the rioters are attempting to control the riot police (I am not being ironic here, lol), or the citizens are terrorizing the religious zealots. Through analysis (not necessarily psychoanalysis) all the chaos is ironed out and made sense of, even if the sense that is made can be debated as to its sense! To say that a situation may be like carnival is a theoretical (non-ironic) distance that is imposing order upon the chaos. So we can say that it is through the cognizant moment that we find the possibility of the Socialist Bureaucracy, and yet he is speaking of it in a manner as if it could or may come about, through the conditions of necessity and contingency. In this manner he is thus having to self-disclose the inherent contradiction, the ‘error’ involved in the juxtaposed discourse, and does this through the disclaimer of ‘naïve’. It is through the ‘invisible’ bureaucracy that we find the ideal situation that cannot and does not ever come to pass in the (political) world, but indeed can be believed in as a sort of utopian possibility in that effective ideological world; which is to say, the world that does not function through the ‘cognizance’ of its psychanalytical conception, but only functions ‘in the background’, albeit invisibly.