Friday, 12 August 2016

Interesting Things (1)

As seems customary for a blog, I'm going to start sharing roundups of various Interesting Things I've come across over the week.

You don't get any points for recognising the format (and you've all probably read/listened to at least some of these).

From beyond the orbit of Neptune!

Not read this yet, but it ticks all the right boxes (superficially, at least).

Ve shall build a new vorld, under ze ice!


David J of Bauhaus was in a band with Alan Moore, talks to Phil Sandifer about magick and Northampton.

Currently listening to this.

And going to listen to this.

Sunday, 7 August 2016

THAT Žižek article

So, this happened.

There's a lot to say about this, such as this and this.

I'm not going to offer a survey of the (absolutely appropriate and on point) criticisms mentioned above. I'm not going to dignify the other criticisms accusing Žižek of being some kind of crypto-Nazi either.

I'm just going to offer a few vague ideas about what it is he's actually trying to articulate in the article in question.

I'm not suggesting that this is exhaustive, not even slightly. For a start, I'm going to leave the Lacanian stuff to one side because I've not read Lacan and I don't feel equipped to discuss any of that. Instead, I'm just going to give you a few short words about what I took him to be saying.

  1. Gendered (and all other) social relationships under capitalism suck
  2. All the same, there is something irreducible about the binary of gender, an antagonism in their very differentiation 
  3. Opening up the field of sexuality and gender to make room for a larger number of possible identities than the traditional binaries of sex and gender will not resolve the antagonism between the genders (any more than opening up the field of possible relationships with capital will resolve the primary antagonisms within the capitalist system) 
  4. Closing the field of sexuality and gender to restrict possible identities to the traditional binary and the traditional 'norms' of sex will not resolve the antagonism either 
  5. The queer rights movement, the trans rights movement and the work of deconstructing gender have been absolutely right to expose the historically contingent character of gender and sexual (social) identities  
  6. All the same, we shouldn't kid ourselves that we can do away with all social problems by simply allowing room for more identities than just the man/woman binary and heterosexuality 
  7. Discourse surrounding sex and gender prejudice often glides over class and race struggle in a deeply problematic way 
  8. Žižek could have said all of this a lot better

I'm not really defending the article, which is in places almost unforgivable, but there are ideas going on here, even if they're poorly put across and just weird. But ultimately, this is classic Žižek: highly suspicious of postmodern theory, reliant on psychoanalysis, fundamentally Hegelian.

Is he queerphobic and/or transphobic? In the sense of asking if he's opposed to furthering the rights of queer and trans people, no of course he isn't. One can be suspicious of postmodern theories of gender without advocating a biological or social essentialism that restrains the possibility of non-binary and non-heteronormative identities. And, ok, I can't quite remember where I heard him say it, but I have recently heard him flat-out say that the radical left ought to view the still-recent sexual and gender freedoms we now possess as victories.

All of this being said, one wonders how many trans people Žižek knows. It was actually a trans friend who alerted me to this piece in the first place, and I'm going to give her the last word: 'Well, he did a better job of it than Germaine Greer.'