Žižek on pleasure and three types of leftists

I usually think of Slavoj Žižek as a performance-artist-of-philosophy-sometimes-shading-into-clownishness, but he can be perceptive, especially when diagnosing the internal dynamics of his fellow leftists.

Here is his taxonomy of left thinkers in terms of where they stand on the issue of enjoyment:

“Leftist libertarians see enjoyment as an emancipatory power: every oppressive power has to rely on libidinal repression, and the first act of liberation is to set the libido free.Slavoj_Zizek Puritan Leftists are, on the contrary, inherently suspicious of enjoyment: for them, it is a source of corruption and decadence, an instrument used by those in power to maintain their hold over us, so the first act of liberation is to break its spell. The third position is that taken by [Alain] Badiou: jouissance is the nameless ‘infinite,’ a neutral substance which can be instrumentalised in a number of ways.”[1]

An interesting exercise to think of the leftists one knows or knows about and to ask into which category they fit.


[1] Slavoj Žižek, Living in the End Times (2010), p. 373. Here’s the blurb, which demonstrates that Marxist apocalyptic psychology has morphed but still exerts a hold on many: “There should no longer be any doubt: global capitalism is fast approaching its terminal crisis. Slavoj Žižek has identified the four horsemen of this coming apocalypse: the worldwide ecological crisis; imbalances within the economic system; the biogenetic revolution; and exploding social divisions and ruptures. But, he asks, if the end of capitalism seems to many like the end of the world, how is it possible for Western society to face up to the end times?”

One thought on “Žižek on pleasure and three types of leftists

  • July 2, 2014 at 9:43 pm

    I know he believes this stuff, but to me it seems beside the point. Maybe it is not capitalism that is at an end, but rather arbitrary government restriction of it that is at an end.

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