And Now For Something Completely Different

If I was a book in a library, then I'd finally be free

Zizek: ‘Don’t Just Do Something – Talk!’

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Alerted by Perverse Egalitarianism to this new London Review of Books article by Zizek, I thought I’d say a couple things I like and find lacking in Zizek’s assessment of the financial crises.

While I like how he takes the time to strike down “bi-partisanship,” he only does so for when McCain advocates it. I see him trying to fudge Obama as being in the position most relatively aligned with The People, and it would help Zizek seem less hypocritical to explain how he sees “setting aside politics to get stuff done” function in the discourse of either candidate when both are significantly bought up by business interests. Maybe the difference is between how McCain and Republicans in general seem to think the question is “state-intervention or not,” while Obama and the Democrats in general seem to be more focused on what Zizek calls “the real dilemma … what kind of State intervention?”

Of course, then there is the possibility that the Democrats will advocate the wrong kind of intervention and/or for the wrong reason(s). Yes, most Democrats may recognized that “Main Street can’t thrive if Wall Street isn’t doing well,” but I don’t think we can hand it to them that they fully recognize or demonstrate in their voting records that “what’s good for Wall Street isn’t necessarily good for Main Street.” Alternatively, if the Republicans and conservatives face what Zizek’s called “the real dilemma,” their response to “what kind of state-intervention?” could be fascism or more State Capitalism. Thinking and talking no longer about the possibility of state-intervention, but state-intervention as such, is what I take Zizek to be advocating when he says “don’t just do something, talk,” but he should be saying that to the Democrats as much as the Republicans, Obama as much as McCain.

In a similar vein Jodi Dean concludes:

If this is the collapse of neoliberalism, we have to push a positive, affirmative view of state action. But it can’t be a kind of apologia for the wrong sort of state action.

I think N. Pepperell has been all over the stakes of this space of critique, too, for over the last week:

All of this needs more analysis than I can provide at present… But one interesting dimension of the current crisis is the rendering manifest of these distinctions in much more popular discussion than we’ve seen for some time, I think… Articulations can have their own hard power – as well as normative force: large-scale public discussion of capitalism – what it is, what it should be – has now opened up on a massive scale. What is articulated now will likely define a space of possibilities for the sorts of actions that lie ready to hand in the decades to come… Opening some potentials… Placing others farther out of reach… This is a time when theorising structural possibilities becomes… unusually impactful… The previous major structural transformation opened an experiential and interpretive gap into which flooded the interpretive systems and policies that have led us here. The question when confronting present and future transformations is how to open the potential for something other – for something that holds onto emancipatory promises that can otherwise be easily drowned out in reactive responses, conditioned by an environment primed to be receptive to ideals of capitalism as an end in itself…

In other words, the dog-eat-dog world of the “[free] marketplace of ideas” has to be re-thought from within very carefully, but what is emerging now out of what Zizek has called the Denkverbot of our “(post-)ideological consensus” is the possibility of thinking again.

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Written by Joe

October 10, 2008 at 11:40 am

2 Responses

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  1. It is interesting that in the German translation of this article (trans. Michael Adrian) printed in Die Zeit, 9. Oct, there is an ultimate paragraph about Kant which is not found in the English version. Our translation goes like this:

    “The great Immanuel Kant does not contrast the conservative motto “Don’t reason, Obey!” with “Don’t Obey, Reason!” but rather, he says “Obey! but reason nonetheless.” If we feel extorted by the bail-out plan to save the banks, we should stop and think about the fact that this kind of extortion happens in the first place. Therefore we shouldn’t succumb to the popular temptation to let our anger run wild, but we should rather channel our wrath into an icy resolve and think about what kind of society we live in: one where such an extortion is possible.”

    This sounds like something taken from an older Zizek article, “You May” (http://www.lrb.co.uk/v21/n06/zize01_.html) where he talks about the Kantian dictum, “You can, because you must!” (How Zizek defines the categorical imperative of “act according to the rules which you would want everyone else to follow.”)

    Our question is: what is the connection between Zizek’s spin on the traditional categorical imperative and his statement that we must stop to think about society as a whole rather than act in the face of one seemingly isolated crises?

    And secondly, why was this paragraph omitted from the English version? Are politics and economics really seen as that far off from philosophy? Can’t current affairs handle a bit of Kant?

    Michael Zunenshine
    Jakob Kaminski

    Leipzig, Germany

    Mike and Jakob

    October 14, 2008 at 7:49 am

  2. There are claims of benefit for even schizophrenia from some talk therapy. If the patient improves while undergoing therapy then the therapy is credited. But there is a simple little known problem that can cause psychiatric symptoms when Subliminal Distraction exposure exceeds a threshold.

    SD is a normal feature in everyone’s physiology. It was discovered to cause mental breaks for office workers forty years ago. The office cubicle was designed to deal with the vision startle reflex to prevent the mental breaks by 1968.

    Since then there has been no research about it. It never occurs to anyone working in the field that this is a problem of physiology not office workspace. If you create the “special circumstances” for exposure the mental break or other psychiatric symptoms will happen.

    When exposure declines the symptoms decline. What ever the therapy, drugs or talk therapy at the time would be credited.

    L K Tucker

    March 22, 2009 at 5:40 pm


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