Žižek, el intelectual contraataca / Heriberto Yépez

Žižek, the Intellectual Strikes Back

Soon after Foucault had decreed the end of the era of intellectuals, Slavoj Žižek appeared.

It’s no accident that Žižek sought the presidency of Slovenia. Žižek wants power. He has it. No other philosopher obtains so much attention in the media, the academy and Internet.

A famous documentary about Derrida captured a certain unease in front of the camera and some inability when it came to improvising “philosophy.”

Žižek is famous not only for his sharp ideas but also for his somewhat grotesque body, his eternally itchy nose –oh phallic conflict–, his rough pronunciation of English, being uncombed when he speaks, a political repertoire of dirty jokes, overall, his voracity when thinking aloud, very loudly.

Is he original? No. Žižek is a Marxist brand (Stalinist stand-up) and a Lacanian psychoanalyst: verbose, neurotic and grandiloquent. (Lacan is the Marcel Marceau of psychoanalysis.)

His relationship with capitalism is similar to Baudrillard’s: a fervent critic of the market who, nonetheless, is fascinated by film, from where Žižek extracts all sorts of theoretical implications. Žižek is an accurate interpreter of Hollywood’s political unconscious.

In opposition to cultural relativism and an occasional totalitarian, Žižek clones himself in his articles, talks, conferences and books.

He is a philosopher about whom one can talk without having to refer essentially to his work. His media interventions define him. One reads his books and, actually, they are always the same one, from The Sublime Object of Ideology to The Parallax View.

What’s the key to his global success?

Žižek is a character. Funny. He feeds the cliché that a philosopher is a crazy person, a maniac, full of strange ideas. Žižek fulfills stereotypes.

Besides, he’s a commentator of popular culture. He applies psycho-Marxist theories; he makes them accessible. The Frankfurt School turned into an interview.

And, above all, Žižek –and what westerner isn’t?– he’s a closet gringo. He is Marx uncovering the ideology behind the Matrix with his mouth full of popcorn.

He is the return of the intellectual who can explain everything and who strikes back against the empire; therein his danger.

His legacy will be ambivalent. On the one hand he divulges leftist ideas in first world countries in the midst of capitalist crisis. On the other hand, he trivializes criticism.

In Žižek, to philosophize becomes an exotic spectacle: digestible and politically incorrect stand-up. Reality-theory Žižek isn’t theory but rather its performance. Fascist proof that postmodern philosophy has now blended with global culture. And that provokes tics in Žižek and the world.

If you haven’t read Žižek, don’t worry. Žižek has already read you.

{ Heriberto Yépez, Suplemento Laberinto, Milenio (México D.F.), 12 March 2011 }

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