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Thanks Adam, that was a great clarification/exposition. I wonder how gramsci's 'pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will' fits into the distinction you laid out. But in any case, this really helped explain the differences between the ongoing posts.


Thanks, Dan. These exchanges have been extremely helpful to me in working out my own thoughts on all this, too, so I've really appreciated all of the questions and comments that have been driving this. Apropos of which, say more about Gramsci when you get the chance -- I don't know nuthin' about any of that --


Adam, I really like your response. I think you do admirable job of showing that within a certain reading, Zizek and the Levinasian/Derridian positions are closer than one would think. But I would still caution that there are significant differences, particularly the necessity (for Zizek) of undergoing some sort of masochistic violence in order to begin a "true Politics." The following is a link to a short piece where Zizek discusses Levinas: What I found particularly interesting is that it seems Zizek suggests that Levinas is not quite "Jewish enough" (these are my words, not his):

"When Levinas endeavors to ground ethics in the Other's face, is he not still clinging to the ultimate root of the ethical commitment, afraid to accept the abyss of the rootless Law as the only foundation of ethics? Justice as blind thus means that, precisely, it cannot be grounded in the relationship to the Other's face, i.e., in the relationship to the neighbor: justice is emphatically NOT justice for - with regard to - the neighbor."


Alain, I agree with you that you certainly can't collapse Zizek into Levinas, but I do think that there may be more overlap than Zizek (and Zizek sympathizers like Jodi) may think, and that interests me more than the antagonisms. In any event, I don't know enough about Zizek to feel confident about saying a lot more than that now, and so thanks a million for this link -- I'm working through it and hope to have something up about it in the (indeterminate, alas) future -- Adam


Adam, really interesting. To my mind, the key turns on 'ethical.' So, in the passage on must and ought, the must is ethical--but, ethical insofar as the Lacanian account of thd drive is ethical (a point Alenka Zupancic tries to develop in her ethics of the real). You may be familiar with components of this move already, particularly from Zizek's reading of Antigone in terms of a collapse of the political and ethical into each other where the subject becomes a kind of object.

Barney Phife

An interesting-- and consistent--feature of these sorts of theoretical chants is how they manage to sidestep any sort of topical or historical context: say, the deaths of innocents killed in the Iraqi war (or nam for that matter). It is not a trivial matter, even for those few conservatives who attempt to provide a theological justification for the war. Yet what is the status of the dead civilians, killed in the name of liberation, even from a secular standpoint? At least from some legal standpoint, it seems there could be some massive lawsuit against the US Govt.: yes, remove the tyrants, but the dead civilians obviously were not tyrants. The theoretical chat in some sense fails to capture the importance of this issue.


You say Adam:

"Zizek distinguishes between the "must" -- the sphere of the Real of "this murderous world," where killing is a political necessity -- and the "ought," the level of the Symbolic order and the obscene splitting of the moral injunction by the superego..."

This statement reminds me of another statement that Zizek reportedly makes here about political "traps" that one does not want to fall into:

"Other example here would be “Eichmann in Jerusalem” where Hannah Arendt discusses this with reference to Nazi ethical inversion where you have SS guys, and you know, they are still human, they know they are doing horrible things, but what they do, is they invert it, so it turns from, "What horrible things I am doing," to "What horrible things I am having to do for the cause." The key point here is that with this, duty changes sides, and become duty to not let down cause, from duty to stop doing terrible things."

And a different statement here:

'Again – you know, many people get very nervous when I insist that capitalism is Real. But they are missing crucial point here! In Lacanian idea of the Real, the crucial point is: the Real can be changed!’

'This is because, what Real essentially amounts to is Real of situation – and situation can be changed! Except – and this is key point – only from within, by means of universal exception. Because – and now I am starting to sound like vulgar Derridean - “outside” has always-already been incorporated into inside, in form of supplement.'

Just thought this was interesting.

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