Tuesday, September 22, 2009

TO BE A HEGELIAN TODAY: SLAVOJ ŽIŽEK IN BUFFALO





Earlier today Slavoj Zizek gave a wonderfully contingent, wildly perambulatory talk on Hegel: "Is It Possible To Be A Hegalian Today?" Introduced by Joan Copjec and sponsored by the Center for Pyschoanalysis and Culture at UB, the talk ran nearly two hours. I was fortunate enough to catch the first hour on a hand-held digital:

Part One. Part Two. Part Three. Part Four. Part Five. Part Six. Part Seven.

Much of the talk a cursory circumscription of previously trod territory (Sublime Object; essays in Contingency, Hegemony, Universality; For They Know Not What They Do; Multi-Nationalism; The Monstrosity of Christ; etc.) — and further clarification (or reformulation) of his position on Hegel. Dialectical sleights of hand: i.e. Hegel = materialist; Marx = idealist.

In both the talk and The Monstrosity of Christ Zizek names by way of Hegel a structural principle fundamental to Christianity "still worth fighting for." The argument is compelling if not completely seductive. But in an ongoing and seemingly interminable post-911 moment the appeal to Christianity seems confrontational, aimed perhaps at a bourgeois left committed to a separate-but-equal species of multiculturalism. Cf. Zizek's first essay in Monstrosity: a reading of the New Testament through the Book of Job recognizes Christ not as symbolic representation of God on Earth but a God willfully thrown into his own creation and consumed by it — the same God that in Job turns against himself in an atheistic gesture of abandon, self-loathing and negation. For Zizek the fundamental Christian principle worthy of struggle = Holy Spirit = totality without social relations set against a vertical scale of power. The God Zizek locates in scripture is neither compassionate nor angry but a self-effacing God that eventually disavows, through the figure of Christ, the privilege of his own social position. (Rexroth: "If offered a crown / Refuse.")

Like struggling to thread a needle in a maelstrom. Grateful to the Center for Psychoanalysis for bringing him to town.