Should We Take Slavoj Žižek Seriously?

Slavoj Žižek has always been a thorn in my side. Why? Between his being on the one hand a sort of modern Pied Piper leading the young astray – a sort of  Slovenian Socrates awakening the young to the wisdom not of Greece but of Hegel and Lacan. But what is this strange wisdom he would bestow on us? Dialectical Materialism? What beast is this that comes our way? Never shy about his stance he tells us dialectical materialism is the only “true philosophical inheritor of what Hegel designates as the speculative attitude of the thought towards objectivity.”1 Agon Hamza offers us a working definition of Žižek’s core philosophy, saying: “dialectical materialism concerns the most radical attempt to ground subjectivity qua subjectivity into objectivity—not merely to find the hidden “objective reality” of thought, but he uses Lacan and Hegel to ground subjectivity in its negative character in the real”.2

Whoa… not so fast, you say! What is this grounding of “subjectivity qua subjectivity,” and – even more, what is this hidden “objective reality” of thought, and why return to Hegel or Lacan – and, most of all, why ground subjectivity in its – what? – “negative character in the real”. What is this “Real,” you ask? Like most commentary on  Žižek, and even in  Žižek’s own commentaries, none of this is made easy or explicit except in long and tedious passages which seem to fold and unfold and refold in infinite circular patterns like a some Ouroboros eating its own tail or an opening of a mysterious portal into the impossible? One seeks clarification and is given instead obfuscation and a litany of concepts that must be traced back through the various sources both primary and secondary until in the end one is left with a conundrum rather than a solution to one’s query. But then again maybe its this sense that there are no easy solutions, no pat answers to the difficulties of dialectical materialism. Instead there are questions and more questions. But, then again, hasn’t this been obvious from the beginning, hasn’t Žižek himself said repeatedly that he has no answers, only more questions?

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