Thursday, April 19, 2007

Zizek a hypothesis

David’s lecture the other night was really good and has had me thinking about Zizek’s ideas a lot. What follows is, in platonic terms, art, or in other words imitation of imitation.

Zizek is involved in a battle of ideas against Buddhism and all neo-paganisms. Such ideas give absolute priority to unity so that diversity comes to be seen as illusory and possibility even evil. Our individual existence itself and all that it is caught up with will return as in a cycle to the unity from which it came [in Vollenhoven’s terms this is Universalism or Mysticism]. Zizek however is an advocate for difference. He sees an ontology of unity as having terrifying moral consequences, even going so far as to evoke the Holocaust as an example of the kind of loss of moral conscious that such an ontology brings.

Zizek is interested in Christianity for a number of reasons. He believes that the “Christian experience” is necessary to being an atheist and he sees the “Judeo-Christian logic” as the best defence against Buddhism. David focused more on the former but said enough on the latter to provoke my hypothesis. It draws on the reminder that David gave us part way through his lecture. With the focus firmly on religion, and Christianity in particular, David reminded us that Zizek’s starting point is, nevertheless, as a materialist in the Marxist sense.

Now there seem to be two elements to the “Christian logic” that attracts Zizek. The first is that redemption means breaking the cycle of sin, Christianity is therefore a religion of rupture, of the Event or of the Other. His analysis of Jesus’ death is, however, mainly taken up with his claim about the “Christian experience” and atheism rather than redemption. David pointed out that Zizek disappointingly dismisses Jesus’ resurrection as a group hallucination, spiritualising the very material centrepiece of the Christian faith. The second element to the “Christian logic” that Zizek appeals to is the Holy Spirit as a force which brings community, Zizek though has no time for the church.

My hypothesis then is that Zizek is a Young Hegelian. Despite his avowed materialism Zizek has lost faith in the revolutionary community of the proletariat and fears Buddhism rather than capitalism. His appropriation of Christianity consists of an abstracted revolutionary logic, a dematerialised resurrection and an idea of community striped of its material embodiment. Might it not be the case that Zizek is only fighting phrases with phrases?
I expect this hypothesis is a little over stated, but it will be interesting to test it when I get the chance to read some of Zizek's work.
Later: David has posted on his lecture here.


david henningham said...

Thanks for the review, I'm satisfied to know it was understandable. I'll be keen to see how your hypothesis follows through, you must be onto something about how much faith he has in the revolutionary community.

Rudi said...

What I was trying to do with this was to mirror your critical comments about how an orthodox Christian is left disappointed by Zizek's appropriation of Christianity because the central point of Jesus' bodily resurrection is denied. Here I try to suggest that an orthodox marxist would also be disappointed with Zizek.

Perhaps the success of Zizek's position is down to a general disappointment people have with both marxism and christianity in their more traditional guises while still feeling a lingering attraction to their 'logic/s'.

Does that make any sense?