Slavoj Zizek is one of the celebrity figures of the radical Left today, one of those intellectuals whose fame seems to be derived in inverse proportion to the distance between his thought and intelligibility. The Guardian describes him thus:
But Žižek is not just any self-declared Leninist: the Slovenian philosopher not only incorporates the intellectual rigours of Hegelian dialectics and Lacanian psychoanalysis into his wideranging critique of global capitalism, but also deploys an arsenal of dirty jokes and cultural references high and low to leaven the subject with sometimes outrageous humour – arguably rendering the critique all the more effective.
Yeah—sounds like a fun time. As the great Roger Scruton comments on Zizek in his new collection Fools, Frauds, and Firebrands: Thinkers of the New Left (highly recommended, by the way):
If he had stayed in Slovenia, and if Slovenia had stayed communist, Zizek would not have been the nuisance he has since become. Indeed, if there were no greater reason to regret the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe, the release of Zizek on to the world of Western scholarship would perhaps already have been a sufficient one.
Boom! Anyway, guess who Zizek likes in the U.S. presidential contest:
“Read Trump closely – it is difficult to do, I know – and if you extract his total racist and sexist stupidities, you will see that here and there, where he makes a complete proposal, they’re usually not so bad,” said Žižek. “He said he will not totally dismantle universal healthcare, raise the minimum wage, and so on.”
“Trump is a paradox: he is really a centrist liberal, and maybe even in his economic policies closer to the Democrats, and he desperately tries to mask this. So the function of all of these dirty jokes and stupidities is to cover up that he is really a pretty ordinary, centrist politician.”
This sets The Guardian to wondering:
All of this begs the question: could it be that Žižek is really not so different than Trump? Both thrive on their quotability, knowing full well how easily so much of what they say can provoke outrage when read out of context; and both of them are, in their own very different ways, what the press loves to call “big personalities”.
What if, after all of the dirty jokes and PC-baiting is put to one side, it turns out that the man himself is, like Trump, just another wooly liberal trying to shock us into thinking otherwise.
Stopped clock and all that.