Demanding The Future

I got Zizek’s newish little book on the various uprisings in 2011, “The Year of Dreaming Dangerously”. I don’t get a chance to read all the books I get through work, because I get paid so little that I have to review two in an hour to make a decent “wage”, and this is exhausting so I only do as much as is necessary to make ends meet. I can hold onto any I want or buy them at a discount, and I may do that with this book.

In the last section “signs from the future” he has this to say about Pascal’s theory of miracles, which is basically that miracles appear for those who know what to look for or how to “make sense” of it.

Many perceptive Marxists have noted how this topic of Pascal’s, far from being a regression to obscurantist theology, points forward toward the Marxist notion of a revolutionary theory whose truth is only discernible from an engaged class position. And are we not today in exactly the same situation with regard to Communism? The times of ‘revealed Communism’ are over: we can no longer pretend (or act as if) the Communist truth is simply here for everyone to see, accessible to neutral rational historical analysis: there is no Communist ‘big Other’, no higher historical necessity or teleology to guide and legitimize our acts. In such a situation, today’s libertins (postmodern historicist skeptics)  thrive, and the only way to counter them — to assert the dimension of the Event (of eternal Truth) in our epoch of contingency — is to practice a kind of Communist absconditus. What defines today’s Communist is the ‘doctrine’ (theory) that enables him [HIM] to discern in (the contemporary version of) a ‘miracle’ — say, an unexpected event like the uprising in Tahrir Square—its communist nature, to read it as a sign from the (Communist) future … And again, this future is not ‘objective’; it will come to be only through the subjective engagement that sustains. (130-31)

This is interesting to come across after reading Kathi Weeks’ “The Problem With Work”, because she spends a final chapter considering utopianism and rethinking how we engage the future. Specifically, her revival of Ernst Bloch’s theories about how subjective engagement and imagination is integral to revolutionary action. That and her examination of demands and how utopian demands provoke people to think differently WHILE ALSO training them to notice the contours of power and possibility. Zizek later on goes on to offer his own suggestion of what Andre Gorz called “a non-reformist reform”. He calls it “a moderate demand”, one that is both reasonable and yet directly confronts some ideological investment. Selma James did it with Wages for Housework. Kathi Weeks and Peter Frase do it with basic income. I have done it in my personal circles (when I worked in anti-hunger advocacy) when it comes to food-stamps as a universal program. We have to practice this absconditus if we’re to see the connections, which means a renewed attention to our co-existence (as Tim Morton would put it) or maybe what some Zen practitioners I know call haragei.

To that end, Zizek’s privileging of Christianity may be just an artifact of what he’s read, but a children’s movie about signs from the future, Buddhism, making sense of “mandalas”, averting catastrophe prempts his book by a few years. It was called The Last Mimzy. That’s not saying anything about how his and Pascal’s respective theories on miracles bears more than a striking resemblance to popular new-age quantum consciousness theories epitomized by What the Bleep Do We Know? Zizek is no longer a cynic, but an honest hypocrite.

1 thought on “Demanding The Future

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