Assorted links

by on May 9, 2011 at 1:04 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. Žižek defends communism.

2. Public choice take on the Der Spiegel story on Greece possibly leaving the eurozone.

3. Markets in everything: “A Sicilian social movement is organizing trips that patronize only businesses that do not pay protection money to the Mafia.” (1/20)  Higher chance of arson, for one thing.

4. Good overview on the euro.

5. Seatbelts and offsetting behavior, a counter-revisionist view.


1 Todd May 9, 2011 at 2:19 pm

The Zizek documentary from a couple of years ago, was one of the funniest movies I’ve seen in years. He should headline in a Vegas casino. Stalin, Lacan, totalitarian apologetics – it’s all gold.

2 axa May 9, 2011 at 2:26 pm

not really sure it the text from Zizek is pro-communism: “………Alex Callinicos evoked his dream of a future communist society in which there would be museums of capitalism, displaying to the public the artifacts of this irrational and inhuman social formation. The unintended irony of this dream is that today, the only museums of this kind are museums of Communism, displaying its horrors.”

3 Right Wing-nut May 9, 2011 at 2:27 pm

So, Tyler, are you reevaluating your spike-on-the-steering-wheel proposal?

4 mk May 9, 2011 at 2:36 pm

Based on the way he writes, I’m going to guess that Zizek suffers from irritable bowel syndrome.

5 Samuel May 10, 2011 at 11:40 am

aswell as based on the way he shifts in his chair.

6 Dan Dostal May 11, 2011 at 2:30 pm

Probably suffers a bit from constant moral superiority. Of course, moral superiority also excuses one’s self from relevancy.

7 E. Barandiaran May 9, 2011 at 2:43 pm

Regarding the Dar Spiegel story about Greece, as much as the Greek economist responsible for the linked post relies on his un-identified sources to tell us about a conspiracy, my own anonymous sources tell me that there is a Greek economist that is part of a much larger conspiracy to force a restructuring of Greece’s public debt and the abandonment of the Eurozone. And I’m worried that my son may tell you that I’m part of an even more larger conspiracy to denounce those that want to destroy the European Union. Public Choice theory is about the “industrial organization” of government and in particular about the games politicians play, it’s not about conspiracy theories.

8 Skip May 9, 2011 at 2:51 pm

I’ve read before that Zizek is a pure Hegelian that is just trolling humanity with his silly defenses of communism. Something like the philosophical equivalent of Howard Stern. And The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema was one of the greatest things ever, he was a hilarious and great narrator.

It’s very rare for me to find a socialist I don’t hate, but in this case I make an exception… because like I said I think he’s just screwing around.

9 Aaron May 9, 2011 at 3:05 pm

Yeah, I agree. The way that Žižek balances just on the edge of word salads is masterful. He’ll build up these huge dialectical sand castles and then wash them away effortlessly with a Donald Duck analogy or something else just as far out of left field. Any neo-Hegelian worth his salt can build up dizzyingly impenetrable labyrinths of Lacanian gibberish in his sleep, but there’s something about the way Žižek tosses in goofy nonsensical metaphors and plainly stupid (but always funny) ideological pronouncements that puts him a cut above the rest.

10 Aaron May 9, 2011 at 3:11 pm

Like check out these sentences:

“As was demonstrated by Louis Dumont in his Homo hierarchicus, social hierarchy is always inconsistent; that is, its very structure relies on a paradoxical reversal (the higher sphere is, of course, higher than the lower, but, within the lower order, the lower is higher than the higher) on account of which the social hierarchy can never fully encompass all its elements. It is this constitutive inconsistency that gives birth to what Rancière calls “the part of no-part,” that singular element which remains out of place in the hierarchical order, and, as such, functions as a singular universal, giving body to the universality of the society in question. The communist Idea, then, is the eternal demand co-substantial with this element that lacks its proper place in the social hierarchy (“we are nothing, and we want to be all”).”

Simply beautiful.

11 Dan Dostal May 11, 2011 at 2:32 pm

Are you suggesting we are not to take this at face value? I see plenty of explanatory power in those words. Explanations for 19th century topics maybe, but the way I read that paper, his intent is to re-establish such topics as relevant in the 21st century.

12 Nathanael Snow May 9, 2011 at 4:48 pm

I am utterly fascinated by Zizek and his readers. They are smart. They should be taken more seriously, despite Zizek’s antics. Or perhaps because of his antics.
Pennington has recently responded to communitarian thinking in “Robust Political Economy.” He employs Hayek’s knowledge critique and public choice incentives insights to demonstrate how communitarianism (among others) fails to establish itself as a robust political economy, particularly in contrast to classical liberalism. But does his thesis adequately confront Zizek, et. al?
If not is such a response from classical liberalism necessary, or is Zizek simply a fad, and too far toward the fringe to bother with? Or is he simply too slippery? Is there anything really to push against?
I’m glad you are alert to his work, and I’m wondering how far we let him go before we commission a response? That last question is generalizable to all fringe-ish alternatives.

13 Sigivald May 9, 2011 at 5:24 pm

Nathanael: To confront Zizek, Zizek would have to propose some concrete, comprehensible thesis. You can’t get (to echo Aaron’s Hegel mention) antithesis and synthesis unless there’s actually a thesis in the first place.

I found myself unable to exert the effort required to try and winkle a thesis out of this piece, because I’ve spent quite some time in the past doing such things, and I’ve found that it’s never worthwhile; the effort is never rewarded adequately, if at all – which parallels my experience with his evident inspirations or forefathers in the Postmodern line, Derrida and especially Baudrillard. (Aaron’s mention of Lacan probably as well, but I’ve been fortunate to never have had to read Lacan at all, so I know only secondhand and by reputation.)

I typically find a good heuristic is that if someone is unable (or unwilling) to write in language that’s comprehensible without Herculean effort, you don’t owe them a response – they owe you an apology.

(Which is why I didn’t include Foucault in the list above; for his faults, he could at least write clearly and make a thesis. Sometimes even a defensible one!)

I’m also unsure that Zizek’s readers are actually all that smart*, though I agree that they definitely think of themselves as smart.

[* After all, if you’re so smart, why are you wasting your time with that incomprehensible blathering? Or perhaps, then, they’re smart but foolish…]

14 Dan Dostal May 11, 2011 at 2:47 pm

So says the Luddite would could not comprehend the importance of the steam engine.

Yes, philosophy must be spoken in the language of the intended audience. Perhaps Zizek should stray from the language of communism and philosophy. Or maybe his words were not meant for you.

15 James C May 9, 2011 at 6:23 pm

“So Greece, Portugal, Spain, and Italy could sell sovereign debt at very low interest rates and use the borrowed money to finance an expansion of their welfare states​—​Greeks, for instance, could retire at 50 if they were in a hazardous occupation such as hairdressing (all those chemicals). ”

i dont know about you guys, but these cracks on Greece never get old.

16 FYI May 9, 2011 at 6:24 pm

I’d be very interested in hearing Tyler’s take on Zizek. I agree with Sigivald: behind the image of culture and sophistication provided by all the endless and convoluted arguments all I see is foolishness. There is not one concrete proposal about pretty much anything only capitalism bashing. And if that is what you want you can read Naomi Klein and get done much faster.

17 Five Daarstens May 9, 2011 at 6:40 pm

I recommend Molly’s Pub & Shabeen in NYC, they have a great beer called O’Hara’s Irish Stout. Very friendly place too. Keats Irish Pub isn’t bad either.

18 jk May 9, 2011 at 10:06 pm

Another Derrida…stuns the pseudo-intellectuals with 5+ syllable words in post-modern rants. Gets speaking engagements and receives fellowships in an American Ivy League or rich foreign universities semianually. Originality and Contrarianism for its own sake and profit.

19 tkehler May 10, 2011 at 2:25 am

Tyler must be interested in Zizek, as he keeps linking to his stuff. Re: how smart Zizekians are … the British expression “too clever by a half” seems apt. Morever, there’s a distinction to be found between smart and wise.

20 JasonL May 10, 2011 at 11:00 am

Re: Seatbelts, it seems clear to me that at some margin of perceived safety, things go off the rails. I can’t think of a better example than football helmets and current concussion research. Maybe the distinction is that football is a game of continuous collisions so the feedback from the helmet is similarly continuous, whereas seatbelts provide a less robust sense of (false) security?

21 anonygoat May 10, 2011 at 11:28 am

Did you all know that there was a time when really smart people said things that actually mattered?

22 Dan Dostal May 11, 2011 at 2:49 pm

No they didn’t. People just assumed they mattered. The change has not been with smart people. The change is societal.

23 Fred May 10, 2011 at 2:59 pm

For Zizek (and for most of his fans, I imagine), capitalism and communism are not political-economic systems at all but simply affirmations of one’s aesthetic preferences and cultural identity. This is actually the only thesis that can be clearly drawn from Zizek’s piece, as he starts out by explaining why the idea of communism is necessarily completely disconnected from anything that actually happens in the world. If you keep this in mind, his penchant for bizarre riffs on seemingly random cultural artifacts also becomes much more understandable.

24 Dan Dostal May 11, 2011 at 2:55 pm

This piece by Zizek was my first but given the comments above it does not seem out of the ordinary. I am fairly well versed in post-modern and communist thought with some dabbling in Hegelian philosophy. His piece, though not an example of a first rate academic paper, bears a lot of truth in it. Why do so many commentators here not understand it? It’s not even stuffy philosophy speak. Is leftist speak so disjointed from the commentators here? Wouldn’t it be wise to understand the enemy?

25 Mulberry May 13, 2011 at 6:46 am

The unintended irony of this dream is that today,Gets speaking engagements and receives fellowships in an American Ivy League or rich foreign universities semianually.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: