Slavoj Zizek – A Philosopher of Our Time

Slavoj Zizek

Until recently I haven’t found many that impress me among contemporary political and social theorists, but Slavjo Zizek is cut from an entirely different cloth.

At first glance the man is hard to listen to, he has a slight lisp, an East European accent and an over active mind that his ability to relate can’t keep up with. Physically he is a bear of a man, looks like an unkempt slob and could easily be dismissed as a total crank.

Here is a man who believes in the purity of film as a medium for social aspiration. An uncluttered dreamsacape in which anything is possible, given the right articulation. He believes it is the purest form of aspiration.

Zizek is also a man who against the flow predicted the economic crash based upon the greed of capitalism and the intensive farming of shareholders. He is a man with many confounding and conflicting ideals but he is right.

He also goes about his business in the correct manner. He doesn’t wish to be labelled an intellectual, makes no assertions about the thoughts he provokes and stimulates and he has a refreshingly unconventional take on key sociopolitical thinking. This is a man who will make a lecture about the environment from a rubbish tip, use a film to illustrate a social perception or value and turn political theory on it’s head because he is right to challenge and to ask questions.

The key is that he doesn’t lead you water and make you drink, hs is far more than that. He makes assertions. He makes statements and he encourages us to think for ourselves and challenge the world around us. Many consider him a wild card. Full of inconsistencies in thought and theory; but I find him inspirational because he conducts himself as a philosopher and more, because the man speaks my language and I instantly know what he is getting at.

I also happen to believe on political and economic theory, I believe at least some of what he says is right.

This is not a simple case of hero-worship, but a coming together and reinforcement of conclusions I have reached myself, coming at the issue from my own direction with my own conclusions. It is confirmation that I am not out there alone, insane and totally off-track in seeking to put right the problems with our political and economic systems.

This is a man who is a modern-day inspiration for our generation. I can sense it. There is power in his slurred words. There is logic and passion and intellectual vision that is far superior to what we have in many way managing our society today.

I believe he is possibly even a latter-day Socrates and the manner in which he conducts his debate, raising questions and not necessarily giving answers is a highly reticent of the traditions of a true philosopher. He may be cranky but he is also responsible and aware of the impact his thoughts have on the world around him and he is beginning to be listened to in senior circles.

It is true from what I have garnered, that the man has Marxism and Communist ideals that under-pin his particular perspectives of socialism and philanthropy but he is certainly a man to watch and consider, if you can understand what he is getting at.

It is the selfless, open and evocative way in which he speaks that is so refreshing and captivating and I look forward to an opportunity to read his works, which remain unclouded by convention, bias or objective beyond the pure academic.

Author: Paul

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24 thoughts on “Slavoj Zizek – A Philosopher of Our Time”

  1. True, but there is more to him than that. I can sense a real similarity with what I imagine the historical Socrates might have been like (toga aside).

  2. Hmm! You’re not going to like my response, Paul, but after half a bottle of sparkling Shiraz there’s no holding me back.

    I’ve never heard of this chap (which is hardly surprising since I never, if I can help it, read anything about political and social theorists), so I speak entirely from ignorance, tempered only by bigotry and prejudice, but your description of him matches a long succession of middle European, incoherent, up-themselves, arty-farty dilettante prats who have pranced across our lives before disappearing in a cloud of quarks when their paedophilic pastimes are revealed at the same time as their qualifications are exposed as bogus.

    They are always Marxist, always wear beards (including the women) and subscribe to the same existential tailor as that king who Danny Kaye so appositely put to music.

    Heigh-ho – time for another glass! Good evening to you Sir. 😆

  3. Bearsy,

    It isn’t about liking or disliking. I enjoy an informed debate. People have different views and perspectives. I just wrote a little about that elsewhere on My-T. I may import the article here but I don’t want to flood you out with my stuff (cr*p).

    Zizek makes sense. Yes there is a particular righteousness about him that gives you the impression he is on a crusade (not an ego trip) but it is refreshing to find that like Socrates, he asks questions he doesn’t answer. Of course on a simplistic level we all know that that in itself can lead you to the answer if the question is adroitly phrased, however he doesn’t take this approach at all.

    Zizek is not a lecturer, he prefers not even to be called an intellectual though he is very well read and well endowed intellectually. He has a rather lovable ‘lazy’ style in which he dexplains and processes his concepts through a process of modern medium such as film, book and live debate, drawing upon themes in popular culture to illustrate his points. He even laughs at Communism and Hell being one and the same thing; a very unlikely approach for a traditional Marxist philosopher.

    I have just procured a copy of his Political philosophy (most of his work is social philosophy) called ‘The Ticklish Subject – The Absent Centre of Political Ontology’, which I shall give a go. It appears to be a weighty tome but his style promises to make it enlightened.

    Like all intellectuals (he would hate the label) he is not driven by his outward appearance and this regard he fits the mould of the shabby intellectual. I do not know on what basis you make the premise that he might indulge in paedophilia, since I have no evidence to support such a supposition. As far as I know he is happily married and has a son, whome he watches ‘Kung Fu Panda’ with.

    Zizek’s believe that film is the purest of intellectual mediums comes from the premise that it starts with a whiteboard and a set of ideas, rather like DNMT and ends with a concept that shows just who or what we are because of the decisions and principles that we follow.

    I am particularly interested in his ideas of promoting and encouraging free thinking (as a naturally creative talent, I believe there is not enough emphasis on this – and it seeing how people allow themselves to be constrained within systems and processes that they willingly accept; and I also want to study his political & economic philosophy because to the extent of the failures in our consumer driven ‘boom or bust’ approach to economics, is fatally flawed.

    It is interesting when one puts aside their own personal inclinations (as I have done) to see what else is out there and if and how it offers any solutions the problems of our existing political and economic systems.

    The man encourages free-thinking and that is the most fundamentally important aspect of his philosophy whether I end up agreeing with it in part, or not.

    Thank you for your tongue-in-cheek comment and enjoy your evening.

  4. Thats a quality put down right there and no mistake. 🙂

    All I can see is some polo neck sporting, beret toting, chain smoking, goatee chin fluff, pims sipping plonka in a boring basement bar sat on a stool, blethering bollocks and champagne socialist tripe.

  5. Ferret,

    What I like about you; your real ENDEARING quality; is your ability to bring logical discussionto the debate in a form that is bordering on cynical ridicule. Long may it continue! Vive la Difference.

  6. Blimey: what philistines we have here, Paul. Since philosophy poses questions about most human activities in all sorts of spheres, it is a a bit of a mystery why it is a much maligned pastime. How can you have any political or social system without a corresponding underlying philosophy?

    I can understand why you agree with Zizek though, he has some interesting thoughts on Capitalism. Actually from memory, I think his defence of Communism was not quite what it appears, but I would have to Google it to find out more. Have you read his views on the War on Terror? Quite interesting.

  7. Minty,

    I have just purchased a copy of ‘The Ticklish Subject – The Absent Centre of Political Ontology’, which is Zizek’s book specifically on Political philosophy. He writes about social philosophy and economic philosophy, so I guess you are right in saying the subject touches on any principles based ideology. The thing I like most is that he wants to provoke thought not control it and that is what we should have more of in our society and our business culture. A closed mind is like an empty store cupboard with a locked door and no light. (Gosh where’d that come from?). I will let you know how I get on. I may end up disagreeing with myself, but that might be good too…

  8. Having spent some six months struggling with Philosophy – and I mean struggling – I finally gave up. I was not alone – nine of us started the course, by the end of nine months only one person was left and it was a three year course! Eight of us went off to do something else – in my case history.

    I read the Wiki article and my head started spinning exactly as it did years ago – a lot of labels strung together signifying absolutely nothing to me…

    I have a ‘philosophy’ that if ‘experts’ have to hide behind ‘jargon’ then they do not know their subject. Whoever wrote that article should have remembered that it was for the general reader and not for people who were in ‘the know’.

    Sorry Paul, I’ll discuss politics, religion and almost anything else – but start pointing me at articles like that and my eyes will glaze over and, like Bearsy, I’ll head for the nearest bottle of sparkling shiraz! 🙂

  9. Booze is good. I am sure there is a philosophy for it, but best to simply kick back and enjoy it. My intention is not to blow eveyone’s fuse. I simply found it interesting and this guy is one of my favourites. Give it a month or two and maybe I’m out too. 🙂

  10. I’m sure the guy has a lot to say. I know a little about the background in which he was raised. I have a friend who is Slovenian – only a couple of million of them around – she has a unique ‘take’ on life, too. 🙂

  11. Boadicea: I know exactly what you mean. We are all different though, I had exactly the same feeling about Law, I just found the whole thing completely incomprehensible for different reasons. I admit that I don’t understand some of the “jargon” but then I read some scientific or technical stuff and it could be written in Chinese! I’m more of an “ideas” person, I suppose.

  12. I have friends in Ljubljana, I have known them for twenty five years. I don’t know if they have a unique attitude or not Boadicea. They seem to be just a normal family, but I haven’t tried discussing philosophy with them 🙂 I haven’t seen them for years so our conversations tend to revolve around family and friends. Their daughter Katya lived with us for six months as a sort of “au pair”, supposedly to improve her English, which was excellent anyway.

  13. Boa, I’m sorry you were disheartened by the jargonistas claiming to be philosophers but it is understandable. I studied during the ‘sixties when the philosophy of common language was in its heyday, led by JL Austin. Worth a google if you fancy another try. I have been suspicious of labels and generalisations ever since then and must agree that Paul’s man shows all the signs of guilt!

    PS Socrates was not anachronistic and therefore didn’t sport a toga.

  14. Bo, I agree with your assessment of the Wiki summation. It is overdone. A plain English version would have been much better. When you listen to the man, he speaks in plain English terms not in riddles, which is why I can associate him more with a latter day Socrates. Reading the ‘philosopher’s code’ took a long time to digest for me too; but I suppose whoever wrote it was proud of being the ‘one survivor’ in their class. If you’ve got it, flaunt it!

  15. V, I exect so, though it goes further than that. He denies it and takes a very ‘pure thought’ approach to his work, which is refreshing to see. He uses modern interpretations of the world around him, as you would expect. I think his example of film is a fascinating and insightful statement on creativity at its purest. He has also reinterpreted Marxism, so he challenges convention and doesn’t simply spout the same things others have done before him.

    Encouraging free and dynamic thinking is aspirational and I can only support that approach to in all things. It is the sort of thing that helps us innovate the iphone or develop HD television or put a man on the moon, these things are aspirational. Where we bind ourselves to convention, we stop evolving and then we simply become dinosaurs. UK politics is a bit like that; we need democracy for a new age, although a bit of sound financial management would not go amiss either!

  16. Ferret, did you attempt unravelling the Wiki explanation under ‘Ontology’? It is a real tongue tangler and no mistake. Practice it and give it a go on Brendan – go on, I DARE you!

    There are far easier ways to express a theorem.

  17. I’m going to burst out now, aspirationally thinking, and clear the foot of snow outside our doors and clear the drivewayto the road. See pics in new post!

  18. Philosophical joke for you:

    Jean-Paul Sartre, the French existentialist, is sitting in a cafe in Paris. “Can I get you something, Monsieur Sartre?” says the waitress.

    “Coffee, please,” he says. “Sugar, but no cream.”

    She leaves him to think, but returns a few moments later. “I’m sorry,” she says. “We have no cream. Should I make your coffee with no milk instead?”

    (According to Sartre’s existentialist theories, the cream had to ‘exist’ before it could be talked about!)

  19. V,

    Very good.

    Please DO NOT mistake me for a ‘philosophical genius’, I am not. I am simply a well meaning untrained amateur, but it helps broaden the mind and the diversity of discussion.

    I think we may be relying on Bearsy and Colin to add some hardcore Science content. Social sciences are about far as I can push it.

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