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Slavoj Zizek - Quotes

Maoz said his film is not a condemnation of Israel’s policies, but a personal account of what he went through.This is ideology at its purest: The re-focus on the perpetrator’s traumatic experience enables us to obliterate the entire ethico-political background of the conflict: What was the Israeli army doing deep in Lebanon? Such a “humanization” thus serves to obfuscate the key point: the need for a ruthless analysis of what we are doing in our political-military activity and what is at stake. Our political-military struggles are not an opaque history that brutally disrupts our intimate personal lives—they are something in which we fully participate.
Žižek, Slavoj. "A soft focus on war: How Hollywood hides the horrors of war." in: In These Times. Vol. 34, No. 5, p. 30-32, May 2010. (English).

It is easy to discern the falsity of such a gesture of empathy: The notion that, in spite of political differences, we are all human beings with the same loves and worries, neutralizes the impact of what the soldier is effectively doing at that moment. The only proper reply of the mother should be to demand that the soldier address this question: “If you really are human like me, why are you doing what you are doing now?” The soldier can then only take refuge in reified duty: “I don’t like it, but these are my orders,” thus avoiding any responsibility for his actions.
Žižek, Slavoj. "A soft focus on war: How Hollywood hides the horrors of war." in: In These Times. Vol. 34, No. 5, p. 30-32, May 2010. (English).

In its very invisibility, ideology is here, more than ever: We are there, with our boys, identifying with their fears and anguishes instead of questioning what they are doing at war in the first place.
Žižek, Slavoj. "A soft focus on war: How Hollywood hides the horrors of war." in: In These Times. Vol. 34, No. 5, p. 30-32, May 2010. (English).

Technological development has made us more independent from nature and, at the same time, on a different level, more dependent on nature's whims.
Žižek, Slavoj. "Joe Public v the volcano." in: New Statesman. April 29, 2010. (English).

Our growing freedom from and control over nature - indeed our survival - rely on a series of stable natural parameters that we tend to take for granted: in temperature, for example, the composition of the air, water and energy supply, and so on. We can "do what we want" only so long as we remain marginal enough. The limits to our freedom become palpable with ecological disturbances, as our ability to transform nature destabilises the basic geological conditions of life on earth.
Žižek, Slavoj. "Joe Public v the volcano." in: New Statesman. April 29, 2010. (English).

The problem is that scientists are supposed to know, but they do not. Science is helpless and covers up this helplessness with a deceptive screen of expert assurance.
Žižek, Slavoj. "Joe Public v the volcano." in: New Statesman. April 29, 2010. (English).

How much can we "safely" pollute our environment? How many fossil fuels can we burn? How much of a poisonous substance does not threaten our health? That our knowledge has limitations does not mean we shouldn't exaggerate the ecological threat. On the contrary, we should be even more careful about it, given that the situation is extremely unpredictable.
Žižek, Slavoj. "Joe Public v the volcano." in: New Statesman. April 29, 2010. (English).

We should not be afraid to encourage, as a combination of terror and trust in the people, the resurgence of an important figure in all egalitarian-revolutionary terror - the "informer" who denounces culprits to the authorities. Once upon a time, we called this communism.
Žižek, Slavoj. "Joe Public v the volcano." in: New Statesman. April 29, 2010. (English).

The God that we get here is rather like the God from the old Bolshevik joke about a communist propagandist who, after his death, finds himself in hell, where he quickly convinces the guards to let him leave and go to heaven. When the devil notices his absence, he pays a visit to God, demanding that He return to hell what belongs to Satan. However, as soon as he addresses God as "my Lord", God interrupts him: "First, I am not 'Lord', but a comrade. Second, are you crazy, talking to fictions? I don't exist! And third, be short -- otherwise, I'll miss my party cell meeting!"
Žižek, Slavoj. "Soul of the Party: St Paul had it right – using religion to rock the foundations of authority." in: New Statesman. April 1, 2010. (English)

Indeed, Dostoevsky was right when he wrote: "The socialist who is a Christian is more to be dreaded than a socialist who is an atheist" -- yes, dreaded by his or her enemies.
Žižek, Slavoj. "Soul of the Party: St Paul had it right – using religion to rock the foundations of authority." in: New Statesman. April 1, 2010. (English)

His conclusion—to begin from the beginning—makes it clear that he is not talking about merely slowing down and fortifying what has already been achieved, but about descending back to the starting point: one should begin from the beginning, not from the place that one succeeded in reaching in the previous effort. In Kierkegaard’s terms, a revolutionary process is not a gradual progress but a repetitive movement, a movement of repeating the beginning, again and again.
Žižek, Slavoj. "How to begin: from the beginning." in: New Left Review. No. 57, p. 43-55, May/June 2009. (English).

The only true question today is: does global capitalism contain antagonisms strong enough to prevent its indefinite reproduction? Four possible antagonisms present themselves: the looming threat of ecological catastrophe; the inappropriateness of private property for so-called intellectual property; the socio-ethical implications of new techno-scientific developments, especially in biogenetics; and last, but not least, new forms of social apartheid—new walls and slums. We should note that there is a qualitative difference between the last feature, the gap that separates the excluded from the included, and the other three, which designate the domains of what Hardt and Negri call ‘commons’—the shared substance of our social being, whose privatization is a violent act which should be resisted by force, if necessary.
Žižek, Slavoj. "How to begin: from the beginning." in: New Left Review. No. 57, p. 43-55, May/June 2009. (English).

What unites us is that, in contrast to the classic image of proletarians who have ‘nothing to lose but their chains’, we are in danger of losing everything. The threat is that we will be reduced to an abstract, empty Cartesian subject dispossessed of all our symbolic content, with our genetic base manipulated, vegetating in an unliveable environment. This triple threat makes us all proletarians, reduced to ‘substanceless subjectivity’, as Marx put it in the Grundrisse. The figure of the ‘part of no part’ confronts us with the truth of our own position; and the ethico-political challenge is to recognize ourselves in this figure. In a way, we are all excluded, from nature as well as from our symbolic substance. Today, we are all potentially homo sacer, and the only way to avoid actually becoming so is to act preventively.
Žižek, Slavoj. "How to begin: from the beginning." in: New Left Review. No. 57, p. 43-55, May/June 2009. (English).

When Obama talks about the “audacity to hope,” about “a change we can believe in,” he is using a rhetoric of change that lacks specific content: To hope for what? To change what? One should not blame Obama for his hypocrisy. Given the complex situation of the United States in today’s world, how far can a new president go in imposing actual change without triggering economic meltdown or political backlash?
Žižek, Slavoj. "The audacity of rhetoric." in: In These Times. Vol. 32, No. 9, p. 15, September 2008. (English).

Our global situation is not only a hard reality, it is also defined by ideological contours. In other words, it’s defined by what is sayable and unsayable, or what is visible and invisible.
Žižek, Slavoj. "The audacity of rhetoric." in: In These Times. Vol. 32, No. 9, p. 15, September 2008. (English).

Even measured by the low standards of conventional wisdom, the old saying, “Don’t just talk, do something!” is one of the most stupid things one can say.Lately we have been doing quite a bit — intervening in foreign countries and destroying the environment. Perhaps, it’s time to step back, think and say the right thing.
Žižek, Slavoj. "The audacity of rhetoric." in: In These Times. Vol. 32, No. 9, p. 15, September 2008. (English).

The point is thus to acknowledge "the presence, within the I itself, of a realm of irreducible otherness, of absolute contingency and incomprehensibility.
Žižek, Slavoj. "Deleuze and the Lacanian Real." in: Lacan.com. 2007. (English).

The central point of Lévi-Strauss is that this example should in no way entice us into cultural relativism, according to which the perception of social space depends on the observer's group-belonging: the very splitting into the two "relative" perceptions implies a hidden reference to a constant - not the objective, "actual" disposition of buildings but a traumatic kernel, a fundamental antagonism the inhabitants of the village were unable to symbolize, to account for, to "internalize", to come to terms with, an imbalance in social relations that prevented the community from stabilizing itself into a harmonious whole. The two perceptions of the ground-plan are simply two mutually exclusive endeavors to cope with this traumatic antagonism, to heal its wound via the imposition of a balanced symbolic structure.
Žižek, Slavoj. "Deleuze and the Lacanian Real." in: Lacan.com. 2007. (English).

And the same goes for the courtly love: its eternal postponement of fulfillment does not obey a law of lack or an ideal of transcendence: here also, it signals a desire which lacks nothing, since it finds its fulfillment in itself, in its own immanence; every pleasure is, on the contrary, already a re-territorialization of the free flux of desire.
Žižek, Slavoj. "Deleuze and the Lacanian Real." in: Lacan.com. 2007. (English).

We usually speak of the Jewish-Christian civilization — perhaps, the time has come, especially with regard to the Middle East conflict, to talk about the Jewish-Muslim civilization as an axis opposed to Christianity.
Zizek, Slavoj. "A Glance into the Archives of Islam." in: Lacan.com. 1997/2006. (English).

I hate writing. I so intensely hate writing — I cannot tell you how much. The moment I am at the end of one project I have the idea that I didn’t really succeed in telling what I wanted to tell, that I need a new project — it’s an absolute nightmare. But my whole economy of writing is in fact based on an obsessional ritual to avoid the actual act of writing.
Slavoj Žižek. "Conversations with Žižek by Slavoj Žižek and Glyn Daly." in: Polity Press. 2004.

I believe in clear-cut positions. I think that the most arrogant position is this apparent, multidisciplinary modesty of "what I am saying now is not unconditional, it is just a hypothesis," and so on. It really is a most arrogant position. I think that the only way to be honest and expose yourself to criticism is to state clearly and dogmatically where you are. You must take the risk and have a position.
Slavoj Žižek. "Conversations with Žižek by Slavoj Žižek and Glyn Daly." in: Polity Press. 2004.

With Lenin it was always a substantial commitment. I always have a certain admiration for people who are aware that somebody has to do the job. What I hate about these liberal, pseudo-left, beautiful soul academics is that they are doing what they are doing fully aware that somebody else will do the job for them.
Slavoj Žižek. "Conversations with Žižek by Slavoj Žižek and Glyn Daly." in: Polity Press. 2004.

My problem with Badiou, although I admire his book very much, is that Badiou . . . allows for only four truth procedures: science, art, politics, and love. But paradoxically there is no place for religion. You know the irony is that the supreme example of the seminal structure of truth event that he tries to articulate, and it doesn't count as a truth-event.
Zizek, Slavoj and Joshua Delpech-Ramey (Interviewer)."On Divine Self-Limitation and Revolutionary Love." in: Journal of Philosophy and Scripture, Villanova University. Fall 2004.

The whole problem is precisely that humanity never coincides with itself.
Zizek, Slavoj and Joshua Delpech-Ramey (Interviewer)."On Divine Self-Limitation and Revolutionary Love." in: Journal of Philosophy and Scripture, Villanova University. Fall 2004.

Here it can be said also why Christianity is the religion of love. It's a positive ontological constituent of love: you only love someone who is an abyss, whom you don't know. Love always means this. . . In order to love someone, it should be an abyss . . . it should be a lacking in perfect being, but at the same time a being with an impenetrable excess. There is no love without this. You have all that mystical stuff where you say yes to the universe, but that's not what is uniquely Christian love.
Zizek, Slavoj and Joshua Delpech-Ramey (Interviewer)."On Divine Self-Limitation and Revolutionary Love" in: Journal of Philosophy and Scripture, Villanova University. Fall 2004.

Ethical would be, as Kierkegaard puts it (in a wonderful way apropos Abraham) the ethical is sheer interpretation itself. To act ethically, as opposed to religiously . . . from a religious perspective ethics is not something you should stick to against temptation. The ethical, as such, is the temptation.
Zizek, Slavoj and Joshua Delpech-Ramey (Interviewer)."On Divine Self-Limitation and Revolutionary Love" in: Journal of Philosophy and Scripture, Villanova University. Fall 2004.

Precisely because the universe in which we live is somehow a universe of dead conventions and artificiality, the only authentic real experience must be some extremely violent, shattering experience. And this we experience as a sense that now we are back in real life.
Spiked Culture. November 15, 2001.

But for me - though I never liked Friedrich Nietzsche - if there is a definition that really fits, it is Nietzsche's old opposition between active and passive nihilism. Active nihilism, in the sense of wanting nothing itself, is this active self-destruction which would be precisely the passion of the real - the idea that, in order to live fully and authentically, you must engage in self-destruction. On the other hand, there is passive nihilism, what Nietzsche called 'The last man' - just living a stupid, self-satisfied life without great passions.
Zizek, Slavoj and Sabine Reul and Thomas Deichmann (Interviewers). " 'The one measure of true love is: you can insult the other' The Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek talks about subjectivity, multiculturalism, sex and terrorism." in: Spiked Culture. November 15, 2001.

Say I am passionately attached, in love, or whatever, to another human being and I declare my love, my passion for him or her. There is always something shocking, violent in it. This may sound like a joke, but it isn't - you cannot do the game of erotic seduction in politically correct terms. There is a moment of violence, when you say: 'I love you, I want you.' In no way can you bypass this violent aspect. So I even think that the fear of sexual harassment in a way includes this aspect, a fear of a too violent, too open encounter with another human being.
Zizek, Slavoj and Sabine Reul and Thomas Deichmann (Interviewers). " 'The one measure of true love is: you can insult the other' The Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek talks about subjectivity, multiculturalism, sex and terrorism." in: Spiked Culture. November 15, 2001.

It is precisely a desperate attempt to avoid the trauma of the new. It is a deeply conservative gesture. The true conservatives today are the people of new paradigms. They try desperately to avoid confronting what is really changing.
Zizek, Slavoj and Sabine Reul and Thomas Deichmann (Interviewers). " 'The one measure of true love is: you can insult the other' The Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek talks about subjectivity, multiculturalism, sex and terrorism." in: Spiked Culture. November 15, 2001.

Today's racism is precisely this racism of cultural difference. It no longer says: 'I am more than you.' It says: 'I want my culture, you can have yours.' Today, every right-winger says just that.
Zizek, Slavoj and Sabine Reul and Thomas Deichmann (Interviewers). " 'The one measure of true love is: you can insult the other' The Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek talks about subjectivity, multiculturalism, sex and terrorism." in: Spiked Culture. November 15, 2001.

In the electoral campaign, President Bush named as the most important person in his life Jesus. Now he has a unique chance to prove that he meant it seriously: for him, as for all Americans today, "Love thy neighbor!" means "Love the Muslims!" or it means nothing.
Žižek, Slavoj. "Reflections on WTC: Third Version." in: Free Speech. October 10, 2001.

But there is another Japan, the psycho-analytic. Whenever you have the multi-culturalist approach, the almost standard example is Japan and its way of 'Verneinung', saying no. There are thirty ways to say no. You say no to your wife in one way, no to a child in another way. There is not one negation. There exists a small Lacanian volume, 'La chose japonaise.' They elaborate the borrowing of other languages, all these ambiguities. Didn't Lacan say that Japanese do not have an unconscious?For the West, Japan is the ambiguous Other: at the same time it fascinates you and repels you.
Zizek, Slavoj and Geert Lovink (Interviewer). "Japan through a Slovenian Looking Glass: Reflections of Media and Politic and Cinema." in: Inter Communications No. 14. 1995.

Slovene media absolutely ignore me, there is never an article about me. On the other hand, if some nationalist poet publishes an small poem in some obscure Austrian journal, it's a big success in Slovenia. I am rather perceived as some dark, ominous, plotting, political manipulator, a role I enjoy immensely and like very much.
Zizek, Slavoj and Geert Lovink (Interviewer). "Japan through a Slovenian Looking Glass: Reflections of Media and Politic and Cinema." in: Inter Communications No. 14. 1995.

What I hate most is the left wing beautiful soul who's complaining about the losses, that everything is corrupted, where are the good old days of the original, left wing dissidence?
Zizek, Slavoj and Geert Lovink (Interviewer). "Japan through a Slovenian Looking Glass: Reflections of Media and Politic and Cinema." in: Inter Communications No. 14. 1995.

Nowadays, because of all these new media, cinema is in a crisis. It becomes popular as a nostalgic medium. And what is really the modern film theory about? It's ultimate object are nostalgic films from the thirties and fourties. It is as if you need the theory in order to enjoy them. It's incredible how even Marxists enjoy this game. They have seen every film, no jokes there.
Zizek, Slavoj and Geert Lovink (Interviewer). "Japan through a Slovenian Looking Glass: Reflections of Media and Politic and Cinema." in: Inter Communications No. 14. 1995.