Tag Archive for 'cultural theory'

Žižek’s Violence

I admit it: Violence is my first book by Slavoj Žižek, the cultural critic, philosopher, and Lacan expert who ironically calls himself a Marxist. Through his psychoanalytic lens, and his endless arsenal of jokes, he penetrates deep into 21st century culture with astoundingly counter-intuitive insights. He is never boring, and he hardly ever relies on the pseudo-scientific jargon that many of his fellow academics so love to use. That said, from his many online articles and interviews, he seems to me like a man who is full of contradictions. At times he vituperates the old communist regimes under which he lived, praises the achievements of post WWII western Europe, even finds a good word or two to say about neocon chearleader Fukayama; at other times he slams the disunited left — who can only agree to disagree — and he ironically praises Stalin and modern monolithic leftist movements like Chavez’s regime in Venezuela.
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Slavoj Žižek – Maybe We Just Need a Different Chicken

Loosely paraphrasing Slavoj Žižek, the brilliant and compelling Slovenian philosopher: There’s the story of a madman who is convinced that there is a chicken after him who wants to eat him. A doctor asks him why he is worried, since he’s not a piece of grain, and the madman replies, “but does the chicken know that?”

Raising questions on ideology and its omnipresence in every day life – as he points out in his penetrating observations of quotidian pop culture, from the McCain campaign’s hijacking of the “change” banner, to the Dark Knight, to Kim Jong Il, to home intrusions by Israeli soldiers, to Kung Fu Panda – he makes it clear that we will always have a chicken, it is just a matter of being sincere about it. Cynicism is not a way out of the dilemma of the chicken, according to Žižek, and I can say I totally agree with him – though I couldn’t put it quite so eloquently (or hilariously).

This was shot last September in Oregon, during his tour to promote his book, Violence. I’m reading it right now, and, as usual, it’s amazingly engaging for cultural theory. Žižek doesn’t hide behind oracular mazes of words and endless jargon like so many contemporary academic theorists. And, besides the clarity of his writing, he’s also quite hilarious. His off-the-cuff remarks in the Q&A session had me cracking up. Nothing like a little counter-intuitive thinking to start your day!