Slavoj Zizek: What is the Question?

The Elvis of the intelligensia, Slavoj Zizek, hot-links in our one-way conversation…

…from nominating George W. Bush (for his trillion-dollar bail-out) to the Communist Party to Kung-Fu Panda,

…from John McCain (“Bush with lipstick”) to Naomi Klein,

…from Barack Obama’s risk of the “John Kerry syndrome” to the experience we’re all having of putting on the reality sunglasses in John Carpenter’s “They Live,”

…from the movies “Fight Club” and “300” (which he says left-populists should be studying) to his reading of gold-digger Kate Croy in Henry James’ Wings of the Dove as a plausible model of political militancy,

…from Immanuel Kant’s notion of the sublime, to racist jokes with a moral purpose.


In New York on the last day of an American tour, absorbing the demise of Yankee Stadium and maybe of Wall Street as we thought we knew it, Zizek’s talk is a blast-furnace but not a blur. The theme through all Zizek’s gags is that the financial meltdown marks a seriously dangerous moment — dangerous not least because, as in the interpretation of 9.11, the right wing is ready to impose a narrative. And the left wing is caught without a narrative or a theory. “Today is the time for theory,” he says. “Time to withdraw and think.”

Dangerous moments are coming. Dangerous moments are always also a chance to do something. But in such dangerous moments, you have to think, you have to try to understand. And today obviously all the predominant narratives — the old liberal-left welfare state narrative; the post-modern third-way left narrative; the neo-conservative narrative; and of course the old standard Marxist narrative — they don’t work. We don’t have a narrative. Where are we? Where are we going? What to do? You know, we have these stupid elementary questions: Is capitalism here to stay? Are there serious limits to capitalism? Can we imagine a popular mobilization outside democracy? How should we properly react to ecology? What does it mean, all the biogenetic stuff? How to deal with intellectual property today? Things are happening. We don’t have a proper approach. It’s not only that we don’t have the answers. We don’t even have the right question.

Slavoj Zizek of In

Defense of Lost Causes, in conversation with Chris Lydon, September 22, 2008

It’s almost impossible, I discovered anew, to interrupt Zizek. And impossible also to stop listening. Here’s the experiment: if you can break out of the Zizek spell, leave a comment, please, about where and why he lost you. He had me to the end.

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  • This interview was a thrill to listen to! I hear you talk about loving to have somebody back on the show all the time, please, please, please, arrange to do another show with Mr. Zizek!

    I’m interested to know, when Mr. Zizek said he is not satisfied with American brand of “liberal” capitalism, China’s brand of authoritarian capitalism, or Latin America’s brand of populism, what is his desire for a political and economic model to accomplish? It certainly sounds like a lot more than economic efficiency, and even political honesty, from listening to him. But if he thinks anything more substantial is possible, I have to question his self-declared pessimism a little bit!

  • eenusch

    This guy is great!!

    I’d love to see him on Saturday Night Live playing Béla Károlyi or Barney Frank.

    Add Tina Fey as Naomi Klein and you’ve got an instant You Tube classic.

  • potter

    This was out of the park! WAS a pleasure!!! He is so entertaining, funny and full of spirit. I did take notes.

    It was good to be able to replay over and over to put my ear to the speaker to get through his wonderful thick accent but with headphones this this will be easier.

    Thank you and don’t just say you will do it again!!!

  • I found both participants in the conversation quite hard to listen to,

    so I could (and did) “tear my ears away” immediately.

  • Granted, there is solid evidence that the US financial system is in turmoil and facing dire straights. Further the implications and ramifications are indeed global. The fiction is that a bailout will solve the problem; no one can say with certainty that it will even improve the circumstances. No one, as yet, has made a compelling case that the virtues and benefits of Paulson’s bailout exceed, or are preferable to, the consequences of fallout.

    Under the Fallout Plan, the market distributes consequences in degrees perfectly corresponding to culpability. The prime virtue of fallout in contrasted with bailout is: fallout ensures that the consequences of the unwise decisions accrue directly to the responsible parties. In other words, firms, executives, shareholders, taxpayers, voters, consumers, and politicians, etc. ALL receive their just deserts in due measure. The Paulson plan is a pass-the-buck duck-and-run plan. It unjustly distributes the consequences to all taxpayers, and in doing so smears many innocent people, bearing zero responsibility or culpability, with the excrement from the current fiasco.

    The Fallout plan ensures that whether our involvement stems from ignorance, intention, complicity or otherwise, everyone is treated justly, even in the “worst case scenario”.

  • The biggest myth of all is that it can’t be allowed to fail! The truth is there is no chance for its survival. What we are seeing is not only the demise of free-markets but capitalism in its death throes.

    The central principle that governs all of nature is Impermanence. No thing, including socio-economic systems, survive forever. Nothing is exempt from the Law of Impermanence. This too shall pass. Change is the only constant. Only Logos endures, and Logos is no “thing.” Each form conforms to an essential tripartite pattern of existence: emergence, apogee and decay.

    The hysteria and fanaticism currently manifesting at the centers of powers represent the initial phase of the grieving cycle: denial. It will be followed shortly by anger, eventually, as we internalize the reality of the “tragedy”, we will move to grief. Finally, following our catharsis, reason will again reach ascendancy and we will respond proactively to produce conditions sufficient to our survival. The good news is: that which emerges from our current crisis will be the very thing required and equipped to preserve us in our new environment.

    I will hazard a guess and predict that the new socio-economic system will be social-ecology, it will be predicated on cooperation rather than competition, its prevailing paradigm will be abundance rather than scarcity, and its orientation will be ecological and global, its measure of wealth will be well-being rather than good-fortune. The only real question remaining is what degree of catastrophe will be required to catalyze change? How much crisis must we endure before we abandon the antiquated, anachronistic system currently wreaking havoc on the planet and our global community? and move into a system resonate with the new reality?

  • I loved this conversation with every part of my body (even my pee pee). Nice work team radio open source!

  • olivercranglesparrot

    Wonderful show. Zizek is a victim of his own success. He should take his routine to Vegas and really cash in on it.

  • robm

    I like this guy, and even though you didn’t even get many words in yourself, Chris, It was a good one.

    Now if only we could get some Congressmen and Senators to listen. Really listen.

  • What a curious coincidence, I must tell a short story:

    Today, I was standing in the philosophy section at the University of Victoria bookstore, once again in the ‘Z’s’ perplexed as to which of his books to read first, since I have only heard him speak. I asked a lady and they called the “philosophy guy” up from the basement to speak to me. In short, in the end, he held Zizek’s book “The Sublime Object of Reality” in his hand, lowered his voice and remarked “this stuff is bunk.” He later revealed that he enjoys continental philosophy when he applies analytic method to it. I brought up Derrida (I like Derrida under Rorty’s lens) and he dismissed him. I said I appreciate Derrida’s poetic play, and that I didn’t suppose he liked poetry. This is when he said no, shook my hand and ran into the back. Then I head to the library and open my computer, randomly check Open Source, and there I find the interview.

    My question still burns, however, which book of Zizek’s should I read first? By the way, I am checking James’s “The Wings of the Dove” out of the library in a second.

    Good job Chris! Makes me think of the grand old days of the “Summer Philosophy Series” you did on “The Connection!’

    One last thing I have been meaning to propose for a while now: You have connections, how about a show on Richard Rorty, who was so entertaining on “The Connection.” It would be a good excuse to get a hold of Cornel West, Hilary Putnam, and some of the stellar minds who worked with him. I have been reading West’s “American Evasion of Philosophy” and loving it.

    Best Regards,

    Aaron Hemeon (your student in distance education)

  • grant-d

    It scares the hell out of me, but I managed to follow the runaway train of thought. I think it’s because of my maniacal blog reading habit; I read 25 subjects in 25 minutes and somehow string them together into a theme. I need help.

    Zizek must have also lodged in my subconscious, because I’ve been obsessing about the struggle over narrative in the wake of Wall Street. The left has zero mojo. The old standouts Grieder and Kuttner gave it the old college try but simply fell flat, IMO. The right was knocked off its stride, but the message is beginning to coagulate. Your mileage may vary, but I found this Fox News bit masterfully evil.

    The underclass bating is so subtly understated, the bemused “I told you so” tone and common-sense logic so elegant, it’s eminently convincing. It manages to touch that raw nerve exposed by the injustice of this madness, yet direct the anger away from the source of said madness.

    Wall Street gradually fades into the background and in the end become a non-entity. First it is “incentivized” (oh how the cons love that word) by the bleeding heart liberals to “make shakier loans.” Then it is duped into buying shitty loans “because the federal government was behind them.” And finally, the bad mortgages simply “spread throughout the system” without any input at all from the free market wizards.

    The only item I’ve seen that comes even close narrativewise on the “left” is This American Life’s “Giant Pool of Money” episode. Which is brilliant, but mostly bereft of any populist spark.

  • psychodopolous

    1. I enjoyed the show.

    2. I never liked the music used for intro and outro. It’s too busy, especially the drumsticks. I’m tuned into music, and this stuff just competes for attention too much with Chris’s (your) trademark dizzying introductions. Calmer please, so that I can hear you.

    I don’t want to go for a beer with Bush: he’s a phony. I’ll enjoy beer with Zizek any time: he’s human, and that’s refreshing. Not a theoretical airhead: he thinks like a person — out loud. He’s the best of the Irish.


  • @grant-d You probably don’t need help. It sounds like you’re well-adapted to the reading mode which most encourages critical thinking, online and offline. Especially if the 25 topics are rather disparate and the overall conversation is as polyvocal as Bakhtin imagined it.

    Good for you!

  • great show- I liked the riff on movies in the middle. Also, his pronunciation of ‘s’ sounds like a cymbal.

  • TheodorAdorno

    regarding the question about which Zizek text to start with – I’d recommend his recent book “Violence” or prior to that “The Fragile Absolute” – both relatively short and accessible.

    There’s also a couple of videos and a pile of articles and links here:

    some of it is quite esoteric and designed for academics, some of it is more approachable, I particularly recommend Robert Pfaller’s article in Vol 1.1

    very best wishes,


  • Thank you, it’s always a pleasure to hear Zizek speak especially when his points are particularly astute as they were for a large part of this interview.

  • markbellis3

    I think his black friend who told Zizek he could call him a N***** after Zizek made a absurdly obscene remark about his genitals is about as real as Zizek’s girlfriend in Canada, to use another pop culture reference.

  • timothy-price

    Quote: ” Capitalism is one big money making machine. But how do you make it meaningful?

    Word capitalism is the thing, and trying to put lipstick on it, it is still the thing.

    What is the ideology that will function for us? Where is our responsibilty in it?”

    Thank you for asking the question as to what the future should look like. Not many do.

    There are many who have written about it. James Miller in The General Theory of Living Systems

    shows us what is important in the essential systems of society and how to develop them. Also, understanding that carbon-life has completely predictable stages of development provides us with very clear pictures of where we are and what is to happen. If you would contact me I would gladly tell you more.

  • augtalk

    Haven’t heard such sharp political analysis since the heyday of Mort Sahl. Thanks for the conversation (or monologue).

  • charrisstevens

    Both morality and economics depend on a standard of measurement in values; the value of actions and the value of objects. The cultural sythesis between economic structure and morality involves the inverse of the Hegelian mutual recognition of freedom; the conditions by which we are permitted pass outside of labor bondage and enter freedom (freedom to choose a vocation, freedom to limit choose, freedom to purchase, freedom to limit labor), as well as the conditions by which we may maintain that freedom. The underlying condition of this freedom, freedom at birth, reifies itself upon the stances of the political parties on abortion. Within the nature or nurture debate, the kernel of truth lies within the mutual conflict between these oppositions upon a single focus: in order to support our innate right to freedom (in actuality the threat of bondage), we must be born free, with equal rights which should support equal opportunity, etc. etc. However, the actualization towards freedom first involves an initiation into a belief system (free market capitalism) and then a form of self measurement within that system. The system assumes the threat of lost liberty, of freedom limited by non-participation motivates the individual. The motivation of anxiety works no less than it did in the former GDR; the alienation though of another kind. Non-participation occurs not only buy one’s individual choices, but also of a community’s evaluation of one’s position within their given system. This polarizes the critic with the delima: to openly question the system I risk the threat of non-participation and the collapse of possible freedoms. Only now does the threat of the system’s collapse that the converse comes to light: if I do not question the system I risk the loss of my potential and current freedoms. The direction of questioning should direct itself towards a historical examination of values, a geneology of both valuing of objects (property, commodity), and the valuing of actions (moralities, labor). One value left the bartering system, the abstraction of exchange allowed for the possibility of absent accountability. The deviation of accountability from institution is the process at work here. A hyper alienation from the processes of our daily lives. The solution lies beyond our capacity for abstract perception, or does it? Seems I need to write a grant proposal. How naive.

  • Yuri Paskalovich

    I listened to the interview all the way through, but my skepticism kicked in when Zizek started making pronouncements about “The Dark Knight,” which he has not yet seen. I respect him, though, for prefacing his critique of the movie with this confession. Alas, he reminded me of my former students who would show up for class without having done the required reading and then proceed to promulgate their opinions. When Zizek does see the movie, he will, I suspect, revise his views and note the more central “ambiguities.” Still, it’s always a trip to listen to Zizek.

  • jazzman

    I enjoyed this conversation (more like a series of disquisitions as others have suggested – but Chris, as always the well mannered host, facilitated the verbal juggernaut by a lack of interruption.) Nonetheless, Slavoj is obviously an intellectual with a well honed propensity for abstract thought and realizes that he doesn’t have solutions to the BIG problems that so many people believe are condemning us to Hell in a hand basket, but he can present these intractable issues in a new light and form different questions than are usually asked, which may lead others to a solution or action.

    He is a brilliant observer of contemporary culture and human nature. I particularly iked his insistence that words are what the world needs to reach if not a common understanding, at least détente. (Observe the current POTUS’ verbal inadequacy and it may explain why many less than ideal things have been realized.) My friends, as verbal competency is one of Obama’s strongest suits and one of McCain’s weakest, it is no suprise that Zizek likes Barack (even if he weren’t a left leaning liberal.)

    Ideas are the foundation of all human action. They are the source of all the problems (perceived and actual) and the solution. If ideas (thoughts/beliefs) are expressed in words rather than pent up in fear which begets violence and other less than ideal situations, then a conceptual framework exists upon which disparate belief systems can find the proverbial common ground.

    I would like to hear more conversations with other abstract thinkers (especially those whose primary language is English) – Zizak is quite accomplished in his 2nd (perhaps 3rd language) but I could sense his struggle to locate the precise words to convey the subtle connotations of which our richly nuanced tongue is capable.

    Great guest, great show and as the number of commenters demonstrates (the vast majority so far have responded positively,) this sort of philosophy clearly has audience appeal.

    Peace to All,


  • ZizekEachWeek

    Great interview. I registered an account here just so I could put in a strong vote in favor of regular Zizek interviews. I’ve watched a lot of his lectures, and Chris really seems to bring out the best of him.

    It may have been just a joke, but I’d love to hear him on this show on a regular basis.

  • To be honest: I did enjoy some aspects of this talk but I personally think a Reality Distortion Field (RDF) was involved.

    [Disclaimer of sorts: been spending quite a bit of time, these past few days, discussing intersubjectivity around and with the renowned anthropologist Johannes Fabian. Rather heady at times.]

    I mostly enjoyed how upfront Zizek was about being a buffoon. Buffoons are quite significant in many respects, some of which Zizek addressed in his talk. For instance, buffoons know how to “speak truth to power.” Chris may not have been the best representative of power available but the tendency to take the United States as an Empire makes hierarchy salient in almost every discussion with a non-US speaker.

    Zizek clearly played his crowd. Not only with Chris himself or the Watson Institute at Brown but with reference to a certain segment of the intelligentsia in Northeastern United States. That same talk would have played even more smoothly in a “J-School,” but Brown’s Watson Institute is almost a gateway to journalism, especially when a former NYT journalist is at the centre.

    Zizek was playful enough as a buffoon. Several inside jokes, some jokes for outsiders, some intellectual fooling around… All of this was effective in the context.

    But… I tend to take issue when buffoons are taken too seriously.

    In saying this, I go back to Huizinga’s claim that seriousness is a lack of play while play isn’t a lack of seriousness. This is where the RDF was involved: transforming the buffoon into an ally but also something of both a guru and a pandit. Sure, Zizek has some specialized knowledge that he can “impart to the masses.” But that’s not really what happened during this talk.

    Where the deference toward Zizek becomes problematic, IMHO, is that it encourages groupthink by discouraging critical thinking. Zizek himself paid lipservice to the important distinction between dogma and political lateralization, but he still framed his talk in the left/right distinction as if this distinction were unproblematic, obvious, universal, essential, explanatory. He even went as far as to use the polysemy of “liberal” without keying the frame switches. Goes well with playfulness but reinforces an obvious confusion in US J-Schools.

    The last few minutes of the recording, with the acknowledgement of strong agreement in terms of thinking models between Lydon and Zizek, were rather interesting in terms of groupthink. “We think alike, we should get together more.” In several other contexts, the underlying attitude would be decried as leading to intellectual myopia. In this context, it’s easy to perceive a certain kind of asymmetrical friendship.

    Chris clearly enjoyed this talk and the fact that he sent (or got somebody else to send) a message challenging us not to engage in this talk is quite endearing. Yet, especially because it was a talk about ideologies, isn’t it important to keep «esprit critique», a thoughtful stance toward the status of the interaction?

    Thanks Chris for a rather intriguing exchange. Some of us aren’t “in” on the joke, but it can still be entertaining.

  • maria-boulet-greffar

    Hello Chris:

    Although I was indeed terribly intrigued by the contents of the scrambled podcast with,

    Slavoj Zizek and did also have a difficult time tearing myself away from the rather dis-

    concerting thrashing of my conditioned appreciation for order and sense, I was more

    drawn to your sudden sojourn into human psyche.

    What are you up to Christopher Lydon???!!!

    I stopped listening about a minute into the production when I realized that I could pro-

    bably settle back into a restful state of order by listening to the podcast directly from the

    Open Source site ( :


    Maria Boulet-Greffard – Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada

  • Yes, he rants, but the world we live in today smart people can be easily driven to ranting. Americans used to listen to smart people, but there’s no place for that in America today, so people just say such people are crazy.

  • mcontr2

    Great interview!! Although he is self deprecating too often, saying that no one takes him seriously, he is one of the only theorists I can present to my parents and friends. Great questions from the interviewer and just a fun dialogue to listen to.

    And I can only concur with ZizekEachWeek. I know that it was joked that each Sunday Slavoj would be a guest on the show, but especially now, during these difficult and “dangerous” times, as Zizek says repeatedly says, it would be nice to have someone to prick us into thinking of new ways out and questioning the hegemonic forces of today. As a student in a Cultural Studies program, listening to and reading Zizek helps me articulate to my friends, ‘ordinary’ working men and women, critical theory. He’s the (post) modern version of Orwell c. The Road to Wigan Pier.

  • Dear Chris,

    It does not take the clarity of a John Bogle to know that this is one more crisis of modern capitalism that will (painfully) go away. Harvard economic historian Alexander Gerschenkron, who specialized in them, would be amused. Some will cry, some Thénardiers will feast but the end is not nigh. It only takes a subway ride to Broad Street and Wall Street. As you walk into the New York Stock Exchange, you get the distinct feeling that the heart of contemporary capitalism is ticking fine. True that it is very close to Ground Zero –a powerful metaphor, as in Denys Arquand’s Les invasions barbares (2003)– but capitalism is not going away any time soon, no matter Al Qaeda’s zeal and the many die-hard Cassandras.

    Slavoj Zizek beseeches a new overarching theoretical framework. It will not be built upon scorched earth though. As when the monks of the V century saw the Germanic barbarians storm into the heart of the Roman Empire of the West, not imagining that their own exceptionalism would only grow stronger in the following European Millennium of the Faith. Franco loved to say that “España es diferente” and that is why I feel uncomfortable when Americans harp on their brand of exceptionalism (I am the father of three Americans, now living in France). Every country is exceptional and every political system is unique. Nobody can be more exceptional or more unique than the rest. Desmond Morris (of The Naked Ape fame) claims that it is in the name of the Chosen People of the Book (Jews, Christians and Muslims) that the worst atrocities in history were committed.

    Zizek plays a post-Modernistic chord, with a Mario Lanza kind of shrill. Like there is no underlying order, economic or social, and our Western edifice, not really cemented on the rule of law, the Rechtstaat, the magic of the market, but mere empty rhetoric. Likewise, a hundred years ago Vilfredo Pareto, the founder of microeconomics, forsook his chair at the University of Lausanne when he reached the conclusion that human behavior was too unpredictable for scientific speculation. (Mussolini tried to coopt him by nominating him senator for life but Pareto, the truest of Liberals, knew better.)

    I am afraid the discussion is much more specific. We are no longer discussing Derrida, Lacan or even Nietzche, very much like when the Nuremberg trials awakened a young Jürgen Habermas as he saw his elder wishing a way out for the Nazi war criminals. Think hubris, the worst of sins amongst “Grecians”, as when an all-too-human Achilles desecrates Hector’s corpse, incurring the wrath of the Gods. Vox populi vox dei is the mantra of modern democracy. The opinion of interest and the opinion of right Hume spoke over 250 years ago: “The sultan of Egypt, or the emperor of Rome, might drive his harmless subjects, like brute beasts, against their sentiments and inclination: But he must, at least, have led his mamalukes or prætorian bands, like men, by their opinion”.

    We need to confront real evils, real perils, real challenges, expand our conscience, now with an environmental, human rights dimension. We need a high degree of conceptualization alright but we know by now that it is the core of universal values what is at stake.

    And this brings us squarely to the real thing. From 1946, first in the Canal Zone, then in Fort Benning, Georgia, the Southern Command ran the School of Americas, now the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, where most latin American torturers purportedly got their training. Costa Gavras made two movies about it, when anti-Americanism ran rampant south of Rio Grande, State of Siege (1973) and Missing (1982). We are discussing nothing new, very much like the notion of genocide evolved in Europe as King Leopold’s Congo Free State (1876-1906) witnessed the massacre of no less than 10 million perhaps 20 million natives and Soviet regimes purged even more Russians since 1917. Hitler’s guilt, from that perspective, was doing it at the heart of Europe, where towering ethical figures, like Albert Schweitzer, Rabindranath Tagore and Romain Rolland, preached principles of reverence for life.

    We should go in the direction of ethics, beyond mere legality, very much like Spencer Tracy’s Chief Judge Dan Haywood comminates urbi et orbi at Judgment at Nuremberg (1961). This may not save us from our own selves but at least it will raise the level of analysis of the queries that worry us all.

    You continue to be the best,

    Your friend Osvaldo

  • J.Z. Herrenberg

    I just listened to Zizek’s near-monologue and enjoyed it immensely. This man is an intellectual rollercoaster, I could listen to him all day.

    Please make him a regular feature!

    Best wishes form the city of Johannes Vermeer – Delft

    Johan Herrenberg

  • LeftyPeartree

    The comments above are amazing especially in light of the patience of the audience, not to mention their obvious erudition. Personally I found Zizek’s accent inhospitable to hear. I hope that doesn’t make me a vulgarian.

    Does it?

  • ginovalentin

    On Sep 27, 2008, at 6:14 AM, gino valentin wrote:

    > Dear Christopher,

    > I was just watching a rebroadcast of a Bill Moyers interview with

    > Andrew Bacevich, author of a book called, “The Limits of Power”,

    > and was struck by it’s similarities to some of your interview with

    > Mr. Zizek. Mr. Bacevich was more grave in tone but, as he spoke of

    > American politics, I couldn’t help think, in Mr. Zizek’s accent,

    > “My God! Nader is right about everything!”


    > Thank you for the email invitation to listen. Your conversations

    > keep the mind limber. Andre Breton was most interested that

    > Flaubert’s concern writing “Madame Bovary,” was that it communicate

    > a certain yellow, the colour of mouldy wallpaper, in the minds of

    > his readers. For me Mr. Zizek’s wonderful pronounciation of the

    > title,”Kung Fu Panda” was not superficial, it grabbed my

    > imagination. I am not sure why; I am just being honest.

    > Also, when you asked your guest for a reading list you suggested,

    > perhaps there were others besides writers… a group you ended

    > with, “painters.”

    > As a painter myself, listening late at night, drawing an elephant

    > in shadows as I listened to your show, I was heartened. Thank you

    > Christopher.

    > -Luigino Valentin


  • I liked Zizek’s point that we try to localize the problems of the markets, make an example of one tiny part, and then go back to business as usual. But, many of these recent problems are systemic and I agree that it takes some critical theoretical skills to decode what is really happening to the markets. In the bailout crisis management, some of our legislators should think about the longer term and larger systematic challenges to the virtualized global economy. We have entered an age of interconnected virtually everything and people should begin to think about it!

  • Dear Chris,

    The best part about the Zizek episode,  other than the way he says the word “film?”

    The show’s length.

    With a full hour, you give us a chance to know the man’s mind.  He almost starts to relax towards the end.  You almost feel he’s said as much as he would like.  Well, maybe.

    It’s the difference between a short story and novel:  all the digressions add up to more than the sum of their parts.

    More Zizek!  And longer shows!

  • joannis.aigios

    my reply to aaron hemeon’s question – “which book I should read first” – is:

    – very inspiring and at the same time quite accessible (and entertaining) is just to begin with the “perverts guide to cinema” documentary… a series of basic žižkeian-lacanian notions are presented there in a form of examples, so it is really an applied theory

    – second level would be some lectures on youtube plus articles ( and of course some book – for me the entering work was “the puppet and the dwarf: perverse core of christianity” because religion is my subject, but if you are more into politics, then “welcome to the desert of the real” or “ticklish subject” etc.

    – but what is the goal IMHO is to read (really, with full engagement) the masterpiece “Parallax View” – maybe if you are skilled reader of postmodern philosophy, you can jump right to this book. This book is the real treasure – the never ending dialectical reflection, “let’s-turn-it-around” all the time, after second or third reading I began to see all topics and themes in the text as examples of (just one) incredibly subtle self-reflecting thought pattern (“parallax view”), which is applied to politics, social sci., cognitive sci., even ontology. What is quite interesting is that this book works very well together with “Gödel, Escher, Bach” by D. Hofstadter, which is more “mathemathic” but still concentrates on the same subject: the inherent “incompleteness” of any symbolic system, which is totally contra-intuitive and at the same time mindblowing.

  • Jacques

    Would it be possible if some questions from these posts be posed for the next show?

    – regarding the wall street / banking crisis:

    would Zizek view this financial crisis as a type of ‘crisis of confidence’ for individuals akin to a type of Lacanian ‘Real’ glitch or occurance that erodes the ‘symbolic’ texture of individuals understanding of ‘everyday’, ‘really existing’ capitalism? that is to say, is it not that it is precisely at these points when it seems as though the very ‘everyday’ is punctuated by anomolies that see to erode a type of cynicism. I see this crisis very much through Zizek own analogy of the ‘Alien’ film series, where the acidic blood of the alien (viewed here as the exemplar of the Lacanian ‘Real’ ) appears to erode the very surface of the space craft where the move takes place.


    would he see the banking crisis as some form of internally generated, anomaly used as a false ‘exterior threat’ or edifice through which capitalism and liberal political economy is ‘strengthened’ through convincing further people of the need to ‘safe’ the market in the face of this ‘false’ threat?

    rather than a chomsky style ‘I told you so’ / presenting people with the ‘real’ facts and letting them draw conclusions blah,blah,blah… is it precisely this ‘bedrock’ or stumbling block of the elusive functioning of the market that is needed to demonstrate how the very system ‘doesn’t have all the answers’ is akin to the ‘barre’ inserted in the Lacanian Symbolic Order (the Symbolic as unable to account for all etc.)

    Also perhaps you could get Zizek also to explain where in one of his books he suchs directions for the left could take a number of positions from traditional psychoanalysis i.e

    the left as neurotic or hysteric for example. the left ‘holding the place’ or simple occupying the space rather than a direct call the action?

    so many questions…. 🙂

    please excuse my poor grammar, poor writing style. I have enjoyed reading Mr Zizek’s books for many years starting with the ‘sublime object’… and as it happens I am not even some high-brow liberal (i am a diesel mecahnic from australia 🙂 I can thoroughly recommends any of Mr Zizek’s books the writing style was quite difficult to me at first but then it became easier over time as i became familiar with Lacanian psychoanalysis, hegel and so on.

    thank you also Open source for hosting and making available such a great interview that wasn’t scared to ask the ‘nieve’ questions as Mr Zizek himself would call them.

  • The theme through all Zizek’s gags is that the financial meltdown marks a seriously dangerous moment — dangerous not least because, as in the interpretation of 9.11, the right wing is ready to impose a narrative. And the left wing is caught without a narrative or a theory. “Today is the time for theory,” he says. “Time to withdraw and think.” —Radio Open Source

    As is often quoted, and as the Chinese symbol informs us, crisis is composed of both danger and opportunity. The danger of course is that we will continue in our attachment to anachronistic narratives and unproductive abstractions such as “left and right.” Such abstraction are an essential part of the discourse responsible for current circumstances. However, I believe, a radical transformation of narratives and the ideas providing their currency is essential to transcending the vicious cycles and decay that are rapidly deposing our socio-economic system.

    In light of this reality, I recommend Charles Eisenstein’s essay Money and the Crisis of Civilization for your consideration. Ideas with real currency from “the left.” As Milton Friedman observed, ideas have consequences, and when crisis hits, we are dependent on the ideas we have “lying around.”

    A new type of thinking is essential if mankind is to survive and move to higher levels. Often in evolutionary processes a species must adapt to new conditions in order to survive. —Albert Einstein

  • jazzman

    Flow: Thanks for the interesting Eisenstein link. While I don’t agree with everything he posits, I found his analysis of economics on the money.

    Jazzman’s conjecture: If economics were a science, there would be a host of rich economists.

  • You’re certainly welcome, Jazzman.

    I believe ideas are worthy and valuable if they stimulate or provoke or expand our perspective and understanding, we need not agree.