Slavoj Zizek Vs Jordan Peterson: An Assessment
Thanks Neotonos! I agree with much of his assessment. He hits on some significant turns of the debate; Im glad, because I didn’t really want to assess a play be play.
I’ll use this repost to give my final comments on the Z/P debate.
It’s intresting to me that none of the commenters saw what I saw, which is, really saw any big picture. It really is, like Neotonos said “like a bunch of people reporting on a cricket match”. To my eyes and ears, it really is like people miss the debate for the spectacle. I think Noetanos gets a little more involved that the others I’ve read, though.
First off; yeah, I get it: people wanted a WWF slam-a-thon, of whatever that WWF thing is. Zizekians wanted Zizek to take Peterson apart, and the Petersonians wanted him to show Zizek where he is stupid liberal, or something like that. These two celebrity philosophical figures represent a certain polemic in the philosophical world; people wanted a battle.
The thing is, if you have been listening to Zizek lately, and understand Peterson’s general effort (which he does use his point in the Z/P debate), both are actually more concerned with the world than they are just political voice boxes. Both actually care. They both advocate responsibility.
You can listen to and read my essay about the current state of philosophy HERE, the essay I wrote before the debate. One of the main reasons why one can tell they actually care is because they don’t give a shit about towing the political lines.
It is interesting to me that people seem perplexed about Zizek’s apparent shift from what they understand as his usually Marxism, and his basic support for capitalism. But if one is familiar with Zizek’s philosophy, he has not changed his view; rather, he had elaborated more upon the situation given the condition at hand.
In the debate Zizek even alludes to his earlier work about Marxism, of which he says he’s not going to take the debate that way; it is obvious to Zizek that Peterson has not read Zizek enough to be able to address the subtleties involved with Z’s “Marxism”. He highlights his Hegelianism. But the reason for this, I think, is because Zizek was not concerned with showing how Peterson is a ignorant fool (like many of us were hoping). Zizek’s point has always been Marxist in that the subject is a state of being which is involved with a dialectical reality which shows up in the Lacanian manner at all times. That is; through the symbolic order mediated by what is ‘imagined’, or what is the real fantasy. This fantasy is manifested in the (further) dialectic between what appears should occur due to the symbolic presentation. But there is a problem (as we understand the “barred S”). When the subject attempts to speak about what the symbolic world is presenting, a transformation takes place: similar to Derridean issues of subjectivity, what was once the true meaning of reality is noticed as a fantasy. The issue within this world, though, Is that one has to be able to notice it (clean house; think).
It is in this dialectic that Zizek locates his Marxism, because it indeed functions to supply all the multiplicity of material for and by which the subject is able to act in reality. There appears to be an element or aspect which oppresses the subject’s ability to appear in the world. This is why Lacan’s “Real” is impossible; because reality presents that which appears to not exhibit a contradiction in its terms for existing as such. It indeed shows aspects of its operation everywhere as contradiction in the, what i call conventional and what Zizek calls naive, sense, but because the withdraw that this ‘Real’ enacts occurs in the dialectical relationship with the symbolic-imaginary domain, as I just said, manifesting an appearance of real truth. As Cedric Nathaniel discusses in his book The Philosophical Hack, it is this ‘real-truth’ that is the political world.
There is no “actual” reduction to the usual traditional-conventional rhetoric or some “actual” political state where the “pure” Marxists or the “pure” capitalists exist because these supposed entities, states, or situations are –yes — already occurring in the discussion, as Nathaniel discusses, of term-object identities. The idea of ‘identity politics’ is a mistaken or distorted use of the the concept of the Term-object Identity in the same way that reality is a ‘mistaken’ apprehension of what is Real. They are dialectical mechanisms.
Now, the situation that I described above is the real political situation. It accounts for why we are having such huge discrepancy in political ideals and ability to get things done in government across the globe. It is the situation of what I call “no communication”. This situation of no communication is what Zizek refers to when he says that he does not see a way out of our capitalistic situation of inequality and exploitation, because it is exactly the ‘equality’ which is posed in the politically real estimation which is able to skim profit off of the ‘excess’ which occurs in the dialectic between what is true and what is real, between what is ‘equal’ in the dialectic of relation of what is Real, and what is ‘unequal’ in the dialectic of what is real politically. This current process of existing in which humanity finds itself now, seems inescapable because it is indeed how we function ethically, which is to say, in remaining fidelitous to what we know as true (Soren Kierkegaard defines this space, and Alain Badiou describes our activity within it).
OK. Peterson, on the other hand, sees a ways out. Both philosophers (Z and P) do not see any constructive point in continuing with the regular status quo situation which they both see in their ways. They both do not simply give up and be naive nor inauthentic (in the Kiekegaardian sense).
In another lecture, Peterson gives us a similar description of Capitalistic nihilism, of the situation that Zizek cannot see a way out of: Peterson describes the situation of larger projects losing their ability to be effective. His idea is thus that we must begin with the smallest or more local project. As he says, we must clean our own house first. We must begin with ourselves, put our own houses in order. He thus extends this manner of being able to get honest with oneself and associates it with a Christian kind of theme.
Both of these philosophers thus pose the same question, have a similar manner of understanding it, and also see that the only way through is, indeed, Capitalism; we must use what we have, and stop attempting to escape the problematic situation through all sorts of fantastic psychic mechanisms (for those kinds of ways of denial enforce the philosophical correlation). Hence, Peterson’s “see how apparently antagonistic positions can work to communicate”, and Zizek’s “think!” as their closing statements, respectively.
Yet, to focus on the small, segregated, details of the debate is exactly a capitalist manner of approaching discourse, even if one says they are Marxist. The hard Marxist activists are indeed perpetuating the capitalist agenda by constantly reifying routes of control for the capitalist congregant (all of us). It does not matter what kind of revolutionary (or fundamentalist) state would do or say to assert a proper manner to have reality because reality itself is being informed by the ontological exploitation of subjective excess. Hence, political-reality is that inescapable condition where philosophers find themselves. And yet, the move seems to be to stop attempting to be Gramsci-esque proponents for the masses, because so long as this kind of philosophically ‘enlightened’ manner attempts to alleviate the struggle of the disenfranchised, the activist has only asserted that those she would help are indeed lost, as they both become as now a positive historical cause.
Yet I am skeptical that siding with the super-wealthy (as some have already decided is best) will be any more effective, for they, as a general class, are “large scalers”, abusers of excess, exploiters of the world, creators of chaos and confusion.
Ok. I could go on, but I think Ive made my point. And if you ae really interested, you can always read mine and Nathaniel’s books.