Slavoj Zizek: The Obscene Machine – Quote of the Day!

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, “do something”; academics participate in meaningless “debates,” and so forth, and the truly difficult thing is to step back, to withdraw from all this. Those in power often prefer even a “critical” participation, a dialogue, to silence-just to engage us in a “dialogue,” to make sure our ominous passivity is broken.

The anxious expectation that nothing will happen, that capitalism will go on indefinitely, the desperate demand to do something, to revolutionize capitalism, is a fake. The will to revolutionary change emerges as an urge, as an “I cannot do otherwise,” or it is worthless. In the terms of Bernard Williams’s distinction between ought and must,’ an authentic revolution is by definition performed as a Must-it is not something we “ought to do,” as an ideal for which we are striving, but something we cannot but do, since we cannot do otherwise. This is why today’s Leftist worry that revolution will not occur, that global capitalism will just go on indefinitely, is false insofar as it turns revolution into a moral obligation, into something we ought to do while we fight the inertia of the capitalist present.

The deadlock of “resistance” brings us back to the topic of parallax: all is needed is a slight shift in our perspective, and all the activity of “resistance,” of bombarding those in power with impossible “subversive” (ecological, feminist, antiracist, anti-globalist …) demands, looks like an internal process of feeding the machine of power, providing the material to keep it in motion. The logic of this shift should be universalized: the split between the public Law and its obscene superego supplement confronts us with the very core of the politico-ideological parallax: the public Law and its superego supplement are not two different parts of the legal edifice, they are one and the same “content”-with a slight shift in perspective, the dignified and impersonal Law looks like an obscene machine of jouissance. Another slight shift, and the legal regulations prescribing our duties and guaranteeing our rights look like the expression of a ruthless power whose message to us, its subjects, is: “I can do whatever I want with you!” Kafka, of course, was the inimitable master of this parallax shift with regard to the edifice of legal power: “Kafka” is not so much a unique style of writing as a weird innocent new gaze upon the edifice of the Law which practices a parallax shift of perceiving a gigantic machinery of obscene jouissance in what previously looked like a dignified edifice of the legal Order.

see kafka

1. Slavoj Zizek. The Parallax View (Short Circuits) (Kindle Locations 5755-5759). Kindle Edition.

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