Criptic Critic Conscience and Known for it

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Slavoj Žižek

“The cliche about prison life is that I am actually integrated into it, ruined by it, when my accommodation to it is so overwhelming that I can no longer stand or even imagine freedom, life outside prison, so that my release brings about a total psychic breakdown, or at least gives rise to a longing for the lost safety of prison life. The actual dialectic of prison life, however, is somewhat more refined. Prison in effect destroys me, attains a total hold over me, precisely when I do not fully consent to the fact that I am in prison but maintain a kind of inner distance towards it, stick to the illusion that ‘real life is elsewhere’ and indulge all the time in daydreaming about life outside, about nice things that are waiting for me after my release or escape. I thereby get caught in the vicious cycle of fantasy, so that when, eventually, I am released, the grotesque discord between fantasy and reality breaks me down. The only true solution is therefore fully to accept the rules of prison life and then, within the universe governed by these rules, to work out a way to beat them. In short, inner distance and daydreaming about Life Elsewhere in effect enchain me to prison, whereas full acceptance of the fact that I am really there, bound by prison rules, opens up a space for true hope.”

“What about animals slaughtered for our consumption? who among us would be able to continue eating pork chops after visiting a factory farm in which pigs are half-blind and cannot even properly walk, but are just fattened to be killed? And what about, say, torture and suffering of millions we know about, but choose to ignore? Imagine the effect of having to watch a snuff movie portraying what goes on thousands of times a day around the world: brutal acts of torture, the picking out of eyes, the crushing of testicles -the list cannot bear recounting. Would the watcher be able to continue going on as usual? Yes, but only if he or she were able somehow to forget -in an act which suspended symbolic efficiency -what had been witnessed. This forgetting entails a gesture of what is called fetishist disavowal: "I know it, but I don't want to know that I know, so I don't know." I know it, but I refuse to fully assume the consequences of this knowledge, so that I can continue acting as if I don't know it.”   Violence

“Better to do nothing than to engage in localized acts whose ultimate function is to make the system run more smoothly. The threat today is not passivity, but pseudo-activity, the urge to "be active", to "participate", to mask the Nothingness of what goes on. People intervene all the time, "doing something"; academics participate in meaningless "debates," etc.; but the truly difficult thing is to step back, to withdraw from it all. Those in power often prefer even "critical" participation or a critical dialogue to silence, since to engage us in such a "dialogue" ensures that our ominous passivity is broken. The "Bartlebian act" I propose is violent precisely insofar as it entails ceasing this obsessive activity-in it, violence and non-violence overlap (non-violence appears as the highest violence), likewise activity and inactivity (the most radical thing is to do nothing).”
Slavoj Žižek, In Defense of Lost Causes

  “Beyond the fiction of reality, there is the reality of the fiction.”
Slavoj Žižek, Less Than Nothing: Hegel and the Shadow of Dialectical Materialism 

 “There is an old story about a worker suspected of stealing: every evening, as he leaves the factory, the wheelbarrow he rolls in front of him is carefully inspected. The guards can find nothing. It is always empty. Finally, the penny drops: what the worker is stealing are the wheelbarrows themselves...”
Slavoj Žižek, Violence 

 “What we are dealing with here is another version of the Lacanian 'il n'y a pas de rapport ...': if, for Lacan, there is no sexual relationship, then, for Marxism proper, there is no relationship between economy and politics, no 'meta-language' enabling us to grasp the two levels from the same neutral standpoint, although—or, rather, because—these two levels are inextricably intertwined.”
Slavoj Žižek, The Parallax View 

 “On the information sheet in a New York hotel, I recently read: "Dear guest!
To guarantee that you will fully enjoy your stay with us, this hotel is
totally smoke-free. For any infringement of this regulation, you will be charged $200:' The beauty of this formulation, taken literally, is that you are to be punished for refusing to fully enjoy your stay . . . The superego imperative to enjoy thus functions as the reversal of Kant's "Du kannst, denn du soUstf" (You can, because you must ! ) ; it relies on a "You must, because you can ! " That is to say, the superego aspect of today's "nonrepressive" hedonism (the constant provocation we are exposed to, enjoining us to go right to the end and explore all modes of jouissance) resides in the way permitted jouissance necessarily turns into obligatory jouissance.”
Slavoj Žižek

 A choice is always a meta-choice, a choice of the modality of choice itself: it is one thing to wear a veil because of one’s immediate immersion in a tradition; it is quite another to refuse to wear a veil; and yet another to wear one not out of a sense of belonging, but as an ethico-political choice. This is why, in our secular societies based on “choice,” people who maintain a substantial religious belonging are in a subordinate position: even if they are allowed to practice their beliefs, these beliefs are “tolerated” as their idiosyncratic personal choice or opinion; they moment they present them publicly as what they really are for them, they are accused of “fundamentalism.” What this means is that the “subject of free choice” (in the Western “tolerant” multicultural sense) can only emerge as the result of an extremely violent process of being torn away from one’s particular lifeworld, of being cut off from one’s roots.”
Slavoj Žižek, Living in the End Times 

 “In a traditional German toilet, the hole into which shit disappears after we flush is right at the front, so that shit is first laid out for us to sniff and inspect for traces of illness. In the typical French toilet, on the contrary, the hole is at the back, i.e. shit is supposed to disappear as quickly as possible. Finally, the American (Anglo-Saxon) toilet presents a synthesis, a mediation between these opposites: the toilet basin is full of water, so that the shit floats in it, visible, but not to be inspected. [...] It is clear that none of these versions can be accounted for in purely utilitarian terms: each involves a certain ideological perception of how the subject should relate to excrement. Hegel was among the first to see in the geographical triad of Germany, France and England an expression of three different existential attitudes: reflective thoroughness (German), revolutionary hastiness (French), utilitarian pragmatism (English). In political terms, this triad can be read as German conservatism, French revolutionary radicalism and English liberalism. [...] The point about toilets is that they enable us not only to discern this triad in the most intimate domain, but also to identify its underlying mechanism in the three different attitudes towards excremental excess: an ambiguous contemplative fascination; a wish to get rid of it as fast as possible; a pragmatic decision to treat it as ordinary and dispose of it in an appropriate way. It is easy for an academic at a round table to claim that we live in a post-ideological universe, but the moment he visits the lavatory after the heated discussion, he is again knee-deep in ideology.”
Slavoj Žižek, The Plague of Fantasies

 “[T]his readiness to assume the guilt for the threats to our environment is deceptively reassuring: We like to be guilty since, if we are guilty, it all depends on us. We pull the strings of the catastrophe, so we can also save ourselves simply by changing our lives. What is really hard for us (at least in the West) to accept is that we are reduced to the role of a passive observer who sits and watches what our fate will be. To avoid this impotence, we engage in frantic, obsessive activities. We recycle old paper, we buy organic food, we install long-lasting light bulbs—whatever—just so we can be sure that we are doing something. We make our individual contribution like the soccer fan who supports his team in front of a TV screen at home, shouting and jumping from his seat, in the belief that this will somehow influence the game's outcome.”
Slavoj Žižek

 “We do not get to vote on who owns what, or on relations in factory and so on, for all this is deemed beyond the sphere of the political, and it is illusory to expect that one can actually change things by "extending" democracy to ple's control. Radical changes in this domain should be made outside the sphere of legal "rights", etcetera: no matter how radical our anti-capitalism, unless this is understood, the solution sought will involve applying democratic mechanisms (which, of course, can have a positive role to play)- mechanisms, one should never forget, which are themselves part of the apparatus of the "bourgeois" state that guarantees the undisturbed functioning of capitalist reproduction. In this precise sense, Badiou hit the mark with his apparently wired claim that "Today, the enemy is not called Empire or Capital. It's called Democracy." it is the "democratic illusion" the acceptance of democratic procedures as the sole framework for any possible change, that blocks any radical transformation of capitalist relations.”
Slavoj Žižek, The Year of Dreaming Dangerously 


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