We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Samizdata quote of the day

Lacan’s collected Écrits, published in 1966, were one of the sources drawn upon by the student revolutionaries in May 1968. Thirty-four volumes of his seminars followed, published by his disciples and subsequently translated into English, or at least into a language that resembles English as closely as the original resembles French. The influence of these seminars is one of the deep mysteries of modern intellectual life. Their garbled regurgitation of theories that Lacan neither explored nor understood is, for sheer intellectual effrontery, without parallel in recent literature. Unexplained technicalities, excerpted from set theory, particle physics, linguistics, topology, and whatever else might seem to confer power on the wizard who conjures with them, are used to prove such spectacular theorems as that the erectile penis in bourgeois conditions is equal to the square root of minus one or that you do not (until worked on by Lacan) “ex-sist.”

Roger Scruton on Slavoj Žižek, a man who has raised complete gibberish to an art form.

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24 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • James Hargrave

    “… or at least into a language that resembles English…”

    Clearly influenced much modern writing by those with credentials who have been deluded into thinking that have had an education. You find them everywhere, a post-everythingist bacillus.

  • I was also tempted to make this corker the quote:

    The passage is part of a contribution to the Lacanian theory of “subjectivization.” But its main import is to bring home to the reader that, whatever might be said by the other purveyors of fashionable nonsense, Žižek has said it, too, and that all truths, all insights, all useful nuggets of leftist nonsense, are tributaries flowing into the unstanchable flood of his all-comprehending negativity. The prose is an invitation: you the reader should plunge in, so as to be washed clean of the taint of reasoned argument and to enjoy, at last, the refreshing waters of the mind, which flow from topic to topic and from place to place unimpeded by realities, always flowing to the left.

    Ouch 😆

  • Alan H.

    That is a superb take down, but I liked the final paragraph best:

    As in 1789, as in 1917, as in the Long March of Mao, the Great Leap Forward, and the Cultural Revolution, the work of destruction feeds on itself. Žižek’s windbaggery serves one purpose: to turn attention away from the actual world, from real people, and from ordinary moral and political reasoning. It exists to promote a single and absolute cause, the cause that admits of no criticism and no compromise and that offers redemption to all who espouse it. And what is that cause? The answer is there on every page of Žižek’s writings: Nothing.

    Oh yes, that sums it up perfectly.

  • Lee Moore

    The most amazing thing is that an educated and intelligent fellow like Scruton has the patience to read all this drivel and write about it.

  • He does it so we don’t have to, Lee, the man is a god damn saint IMO. For extra hilarity read the comments where Žižek has some defenders 😆

  • NickM

    Precultural construction and social realism

    BARBARA V. VON JUNZ

    DEPARTMENT OF FUTURE STUDIES, HARVARD UNIVERSITY

    T. WILHELM REICHER

    DEPARTMENT OF ENGLISH, YALE UNIVERSITY

    1. Discourses of failure

    “Art is intrinsically impossible,” says Sontag. The premise of precultural
    construction states that the task of the poet is social comment.

    “Class is used in the service of class divisions,” says Bataille; however,
    according to Porter[1] , it is not so much class that is
    used in the service of class divisions, but rather the collapse, and eventually
    the dialectic, of class. In a sense, Debord uses the term ‘the neodialectic
    paradigm of consensus’ to denote the role of the writer as observer. De Selby[2] implies that we have to choose between preconceptual
    textual theory and Sontagist camp.

    And it goes on…

    That is from here. Postmodernism boasts more dysfunctional arseholes than a consultant proctologist’s client list.

  • NickM

    See this for more.

  • Lee Moore

    Thanks Nick. There used to quite a fun thing called the postmodernist generator. Is yours the same thing under a new name, or a new one ?

  • NickM

    Lee,
    I think it’s pretty much the same thing but then who could ever tell?

  • Indeed, Nick, I would describe Slavoj Žižek as a kind of reverse Turing Test, in which if you did not know, would you think he was a real person or a ChomskyBot algorithm assembling random phrases of post-modern gibberish. I would assume the later 😀

  • QET

    I rather enjoyed In Defense of Lost Causes, I even found large swaths of it comprehensible. But then I tried reading The Sublime Object of Ideology and found it impenetrable, just as I did the one book by Lacan that I attempted to read. I see these writers, like Dada before them, as basically trying to stand athwart history yelling “the world can be justified only as an aesthetic phenomenon!”

  • Paul Marks

    France in the late 1960s was a very nice place – the left were a bunch of whiners pretending things were awful when life was actually good in France at that time. The effort of the left to pretend that things were bad when they were good led them into a mist of words – which they falsely regarded, and still regard, as intellectual.

  • hennesli

    Indeed, Nick, I would describe Slavoj Žižek as a kind of reverse Turing Test, in which if you did not know, would you think he was a real person or a ChomskyBot algorithm assembling random phrases of post-modern gibberish. I would assume the later

    you do know that Chomsky is a staunch critic of postmodernism and critical theory? he even called Lacan a ‘self conscious charlatan‘.

    as for Zizek I thought ‘the perverts guide to cinema’ was pretty good but have not read much of his output.
    A lot of what lacan writes does indeed just come across as noise and deliberate obfuscation. In terms of French theory I prefer Barthes and Baudrillard.

  • RAB

    Alan H.

    You read to the last paragraph?! I managed a third of it and didn’t understand a goddam word.

  • the other rob

    He does it so we don’t have to, Lee, the man is a god damn saint IMO.

    Abso-fucking-lutley! I’m exhausted and will have to save the whole article for another time, but skimming the first few paragraphs prompted a couple of thoughts, by no means as nuanced as Scruton’s, but we’re not doing nuance round here this month.

    Then came the collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe, and I allowed myself to hope.

    Didn’t we all? Ten, or so, glorious years when it seemed like the battle was won, the “wartime” intrusions of the state could be done away with and liberty would reign supreme. Until the apparat (which never went away) found a new justification for its existence and the bubble burst. I wonder whether the squaddies in the World Wars felt like that, once the wars were won?

    My other observation relates to three snippets:

    …the problem with Hitler, and with Stalin, too, is that they “were not violent enough”

    ,

    …besides, Stalinism is not immoral but too moral…

    and

    …his call for a new Party organized on Leninist principles…

    This, to me, encapsulates the modern left. They criticise Hitler and Stalin, not for the genocides or mass slaughters, but for stooping to dirty their hands by picking and choosing their victims. Rather, the modern left follows the example of an older leftist, Lenin, who simply appended “etc.” to the list of names on any death warrant that he signed.

    A murderer at least picks his victims. An arsonist doesn’t care whom he kills.

    Apologies for the poor formatting. I should probably read up on what tags this system supports.

  • Nicholas (Unlicensed Joker!) Gray

    We have some drivel-masters here in Oz, but nothing like yours! How can we stop them breeding, or coming here- give them simple passages from Churchill to read?

  • you do know that Chomsky is a staunch critic of postmodernism and critical theory?

    I do, but I also know he too is full of shit and that is the reason why ChomskyBots exist.

  • NickM

    Something I have heard about Chomsky is his proud boast that the only reason he got tenure at MIT was they didn’t give a toss about linguistics so they’d hire anyone.

  • lucklucky

    “you do know that Chomsky is a staunch critic of postmodernism and critical theory? he even called Lacan a ‘self conscious charlatan‘.”

    Competitors usually badmouth each other…

  • Lee Moore

    We have some drivel-masters here in Oz, but nothing like yours! How can we stop them breeding

    There are obviously some obscurantists whose primary goal is to conceal their preferred dystopia behind forests of verbiage. But there are others, of whom Žižek may be one, for whom the verbiage may simply be ornamentation. Many of his phrases can be rolled impressively round the mouth – the absence of any definite meaning of much of it is not relevant – it’s the prose equivalent of O bla di o bla da. There’s a class of women who eat this up with a spoon, and Žižek’s main project may just be to get laid. Rousseau and Sartre spring to mind in this connection.

    Hence when you get a talented one, like Žižek, he’s probably going to get laid quite a lot. But fortunately his conquests will probably not be into actual breeding.

  • Erik

    Related: Žižek appears to have committed plagiarism. How was this noticed? His text’s unusual clarity.

    I also like one of the comments over at Deogolwulf’s:

    Being an ignorant Yank, should I know who or what a zizek is, and, what’s more important, should I care? Will a zizek do something important, like unclog my toilet or shine my shoes, or do zizeks occupy the same moral and philosophical plane as mood rings and pet rocks, thereby forming part and parcel of that vast category of modern life, things that I would just as soon do without because they serve no apparent function?

  • Cristina

    […]should I know who or what a zizek is, and, what’s more important, should I care? […] LOL

  • Michael Gillespie

    I believe zizek is the Czech word for “wompom”…

  • Paul Marks

    Noam Chomsky is indeed “full of shit” see the “Anti Chomsky Reader”. The ideas of Professor Chomsky are a mixture of errors and downright lies.

    As for the French left “intellectuals” – I repeat the obvious point I have already made. France in the late 1960s was a nice place – yet they (the left “intellectuals”) wanted Revolution anyway. So they came out with a mist-of-words to confuse the young (and the not so young), so that they not could see the obvious truth that France in the late 1960s was a nice place.

    Searching for the meaning of the “ideas” of the French left intellectuals is actually a waste of time – as under the music-of-the-words (which I am told is very effective in French – although it collapses when these works are translated into English) there is no meaning in their works – other than smash-burn-kill.