Wednesday 8 September 2010

More from Žižek

What if, in truth, intellectuals lead basically safe and comfortable lives, and in order to justify their livelihoods, construct scenarios of radical catastrophe? For many, no doubt, if a revolution is taking place, it should occur at a safe distance—Cuba, Nicaragua, Venezuela—so that, while their hearts are warmed by thinking about faraway events, they can go on promoting their careers. But with the current collapse of properly functioning welfare states in the advanced-industrial economies, radical intellectuals may be now approaching a moment of truth when they must make such clarifications: they wanted real change—now they can have it.
He is referring primarily to Horkheimer and Agamben; the latter I consider to be a particularly important target given his weirdly pronounced fashionability in the last few years.

There certainly are a lot of self-styled 'radicals' in the academy. I myself have no problem with admitting to being a lily-livered leftist who has never been anywhere near genuinely radical, let alone revolutionary, political action. My parochial, rural working class upbringing was about as far from that world as that of private schools and private jets and nothing I have done since has brought me any closer to either of these alien realms. How usual! Indeed, yet what is striking is that so many people who are just as politically irrelevant as me pretend the opposite - these are self-styled radicals.

Times of potential political change, such as the present one, show much self-styled radicalism to be exactly what it is - so much hot air. 'You wanted change and decried its enforced impossibility - now it is there for the taking; take it!' No taking, no changing; there is nothing to say. Nothing in the academic production cycle allows for its relevance: it takes years to publish anything and nobody reads journals anyway. Besides, its not like anyone has anything in particular to say despite spraying words like 'emancipatory' and 'liberating' across their essays like piss up a brick wall.

At least Žižek gets people interested and he usually has something to say.