Slavoj Zizek: Concrete Universality

‘Concrete universality’ means that there is no abstract universality of rules, there are no ‘typical’ situations, all we are dealing with is exceptions; however, a concrete totality is the totality that regulates the concrete context of exceptions. We should thus, on account of our very fidelity to concrete analysis, reject any form of nominalism. To the nominalist claim that there is no pure neutral universality, that every universality is caught up in the conflict of particular ways of life, one should reply: ‘No, today it’s the particular ways of life that do not exist as autonomous modes of historical existence, the only actual reality is that of the universal capitalist system.’ This is why, in contrast to identity politics, which focuses on how each (ethnic, religious, sexual) group should be able fully to assert its particular identity, the much more difficult and radical task is to enable each group to access full universality. This access to universality does not mean a recognition that one is also part of the universal human genus, or the assertion of some ideological values that are considered universal. Rather, it means recognizing one’s own universality, the way it is at work in the fractures of one’s particular identity, as the ‘work of the negative’ that undermines every such identity.

—Like A Thief In Broad Daylight: Power in the Era of Post-Humanity – Slavoj Zizek

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