International Journal of Zizek Studies Vol. 2 Num. 4 (2008)

A new issue of IJZS, which contains a much talked about article by Levi Bryant that expands upon Lacan’s “discourse of the Capitalist” and explores Zizek’s contributions toward a Lacanian critique of ideology, making some interesting suggestions about Zizek’s own account of his thought.

In what way is the thought of Slavoj Žižek to be distinguished from that of Jacques Lacan? This paper argues that the thought of Lacan and Žižek are to be distinguished at the level of the formal structure of discourse. Although Žižek often situates his own theoretical project in terms of the discourse of the analyst, his work occupies an uneasy place in this position insofar as the discourse of the analyst is directed at the singularity of the subject’s symptom, rather than shared political causes. Drawing on his ‘Milan Discourse’ where Lacan presents the discourse of the capitalist, this paper argues that Žižek discourse inhabits the universe of capitalism, rather than the universe of mastery. Through the development of a modified version of Lacan’s discourse of the capitalist, it is shown that it is possible to derive three additional discourses– the discourse of biopower, the discourse of immaterial labor, and the discourse of critical theory –from the initial discourse of the capitalist. A psychoanalytic approach to these discourses using Lacanian discourse theory goes beyond standard accounts of biopolotical production and immaterial labor by revealing the function of the unconscious and real at work in these discourses, thereby opening new possibilities of engagement. Žižek’s theoretical project is shown to be an important cartography of this new universe of discourse, revealing both how the discourses inhabiting this universe contain certain constitutive deadlocks and devising strategies for engagement where the foe– due to the disappearance of the master and new forms of capitalism that can no longer be properly situated in terms of the discourse of the university –is no longer entirely clear.

 It’s the only article I’ve read so far, but I hope to read a couple more and have more to say besides brief associations by the end of the weekend. One thing I’d like to explore in Levi’s article, and hope to see brought up on other blogs, are the formal homologies between the four permutations of the different universes of discourse (i.e. the relationship between different discourses that share a term in a particular position in the formula)