It has been a few months since I first got my hands on Zizek’s new book on Hegel. Accepting the challenge of reading this has been difficult to say the least. I am not formally educated in philosophy, although I took a couple of philosophy of education classes in college, but in spite of my major being history, was not required to read anything by Hegel. This is a retrospective sign of how poor my college education was. How can a history major, or anyone for that matter, not be given something of Hegel’s to read? And so it took a relatively unreadable book by Zizek to finally introduce me to this guy, which I can now say is worth the effort. That being said, teaching myself these concepts, though not impossible, has proven to be difficult and time consuming. Zizek’s problem is not that his various opinions, and musings are not brilliant in their own way, but that his writing is largely confusing, if not outright schizophrenic in sections. One has to force oneself to push on through run on sentences that are at best obtuse, and at worst tangential and rambling. I have to give serious credit to the editor, who must’ve lost a lot of sleep wading through these pages with deadlines looming. An example: “The problem here is: how does this negation of negation which changes the entire field of Freudo-Lacanian negation of negation which ends with the spectral not-not-nothingness? Does not the shift from the first negation (“negation with a filling”), where I sacrifice the core of my being in exchange for something (heaven of belief, honor, utility, wealth….), to the negation of negation (negation without a filling”) point towards what Lacan, in his reading of Claudel, deployed as the structure of Versagung, where we pass from the sacrifice made for something to the sacrifice made for nothing!”(pg 324) Huh? Not only is this incomprehensible to the lay person, but it is fairly common to run into these word salad walls fairly frequently. The only thing to be done in these instances is to forge on, hoping that the opportunity will present itself to eventually understand what Zizek is stating. Either that, or get out the laptop and start looking up words in Wikipedia. There has been many a night over the past three months when I would be 5 windows removed from the original passage, reading about Hegel’s ‘negation of negation’, and trying to understand it within the context of Zizek’s point. I had planned on having to read up on Hegel (his name being included in the title…), however what I did not count on was the laundry list of Freudian psycho-analysts, historians, political figures, and cultural critics which Zizek prolifically draws from in making his case, not to mention a who’s who of post structuralist philosophers, men and women who’s biographical footnotes are sometimes as interesting as their contributions to ontology and empiricism are brilliant. And yet, after all is said and done, and the proper time and effort are put into it, more times than not Zizek’s ideas begin to take shape in my mind, and I slowly begin to understand, like the first steps of a toddler. And this is when the genius of the man becomes evident. This is the third book I have purchased by this author. The first I threw away in frustration and , I admit feelings of blasphemy. As incomprehensible as most of it was for me, the few parts that I thought I understood were so disturbing in the way they disrupted my worldview that I ended up chucking it into a dumpster. That book haunted me for months. Several years later I picked up his book, “In Defense of Lost Causes”. This book was no less confusing to my intellect, however it was much less abrasive to my sensibilities. I noticed that Zizek’s ideas grew on me, and started to make sense. I eventually found myself a true believer. By this, the third book, I am questioning and critiquing, attempting to come to terms with it, wrestling like Job with the angel. Thesis, antithesis, synthesis. Hegel would be proud.
I really really hope this shows up. glad I saved it!
Spent the better part of my evening yesterday filling out on-line forms for a parent plus loan for my son to go to college this fall, and frankly felt by the end of the ordeal that my balls were in a vice and being turned by the banks. Again? Really? After what they did to me the past 4 years? What did they do to me, you ask? The same thing they did to you. They devalued my house, decreased the value of the dollar, effectively reducing my pay, and raised the interest on my credit cards. As if that wasn’t enough, they’re now gouging me on my kid’s college loans! Well, why not? The cronyism and autonomy with which the financial community has been allowed to operate as a result of deregulation has given these institutions free reign to set interest rates and tack on countless fees with no…
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Spent the better part of my evening yesterday filling out on-line forms for a parent plus loan for my son to go to college this fall, and frankly felt by the end of the ordeal that my balls were in a vice and being turned by the banks. Again? Really? After what they did to me the past 4 years? What did they do to me, you ask? The same thing they did to you. They devalued my house, decreased the value of the dollar, effectively reducing my pay, and raised the interest on my credit cards. As if that wasn’t enough, they’re now gouging me on my kid’s college loans! Well, why not? The cronyism and autonomy with which the financial community has been allowed to operate as a result of deregulation has given these institutions free reign to set interest rates and tack on countless fees with no government oversight. As recently as last month Mr. Obama had to execute an executive order so that student loans would stay at the current interest rate. (7.9-8.9 for subsidized loans..) If he had not done this, loans would have almost doubled to 13%. Since I am in an income bracket that precludes any of my children from qualifying for Pell Grants, I am pretty much at the mercy of the banks if I want my kid to go to college.
So as I’m filling out the forms for these various loans on the fafsa website I am getting this claustrophobic feeling that I am signing my life away. Looks like I will be indentured to the banks for the remainder of my career, which will likely be extended into my 70’s, or my son will be making a college loan payment which basically amounts to a mortgage payment, for roughly 20 to 30 years after graduation. The banks have figured out a way to harvest my future income before it ever gets into my wallet! And this after they took the bailout package the government offered to pay their bonuses and build up their assets. Sheesh!. So in a strange way they are taking the free money they got from the government and turning around and loaning it to me at a hefty interest rate, and all with the blessing of the do nothing government, who got elected by the financial lobby to maintain their control of the money. Adding insult to injury, we will all be paying higher taxes to pay the interest on the 800 billion the Chinese loaned us to bail the banks out! This is the kind of double dipping that is breaking the back of the middle class, and is a great example of how banks are contributing to the decay of the American Dream. Hardly a day goes by that we don’t hear about malfeasance and mismanagement in the banking industry. And yet, the 1% of this country are using their money and their power to close off opportunity by restricting access to a college education for thousands of middle class working americans, who by all rights have no way of moving up the economic ladder except through the doors of higher education. Fewer and fewer kids getting out of college are finding work in their chosen field, and the debt load is tipping the scales at 3 trillion for college loans. That’s “trillion”. According to statistics, It is now the second highest total debt after credit card debt. And the wise minds of the government, those purvayors of democracy and free enterprise, have provided this environment, and have obediently closed loopholes so that one can’t even include school loans in a bankruptcy. This amounts to indentured servitude for millions of our children over the next 20 years. The options are to go 100,000 dollars in debt for the chance to compete for the few good jobs, or be resigned to a low paying job with no healthcare, no rights, and little chance for advancement. The repayment tables located on page 7 of the 10 page long promisary note that I eventually, grudgingly brought myself to sign are shocking; it now costs 24,570.00 to attend Michigan State University as a Freshman (including room and board). This doesn’t include any proposed increase that the University may decide to levy for the 2012-2013 school year. This is a public land grant university. As such it is supposedly a good deal. A friend of our son is heading to George Washington University in the fall. His cost will be roughly double that. As it is I am signing on for at least $80,000.00 in debt over the 4 years of a bachelor’s degree. In contrast, when I went to college in the 70’s, the cost was about about one-twentieth of this, (it cost me roughly 6,000 dollars for my 4 year degree…)and although I had a scholarship, I was able to work my way through. If you did have to borrow money the loan rate was 4% (1979 dollars…) and you were not required to begin payment until 9 months after you graduated or quit taking courses. This meant that when I graduated I was sufficiently solvent to be able to partake in the consumerist vision of the American Dream.
But that was “the good ol’ days”. It seems as though the common wisdom today is to cut out the middle man, and have kids so in-debt once they get done with school that the majority will be virtually indentured to the banking industry into their thirties and forties. And with a 3.1 trillion dollar river of interest pouring into the banks, courtesy of the policies of an oligarchic government that panders to the banking lobby, the final pennies of our so-called economic recovery will be collected, stacked and counted. There are market contingencies in place, and governmental policies to insure the death of the middle class. And just maybe this is what is needed to radicalize a people who have become complacent with their bread and circuses.
Well at least all of my hard work is paying off in that i am becoming familiar with the various concepts and definitions. I am also just learning how to use this smartphone technology… Now to actually write something reflective of this.
I believe i will attempt to use these new tools to construct, or rather “restructure” some issues with psychology and social work. I believe that if these concepts are accurate they will hold up to and illuminate the events occurring in my work world…and perhaps give me some insights. ( this post is a test post to see how this works)
Finished the Intro and got into chapter 1 today… Zizek uses the intro to lay out his thesis and to describe how he divided the book up ad why, and discusses some of the ideas that structure his thinking. He is looking at dialectical materialism through the lens of Hegelian ontology and Lacanian theory. He also talks about the work of Kant, Fichte, and Schopenhauer and how their work augments Hegelian thinking about what reality is and what it means to be a person in this world. In order to understand this it is important to see things in terms of dialecticalism (i.e.; the interplay between two polarities, that of agency vs. structure for instance, or between subject and object.) Although these concepts can be difficult to grasp at first, especially if one has not studied these things before, Zizek does a pretty good job of explaining what he means, and giving examples. He goes off on tangents quite a bit, but these side bars are usually point worthy…one just has to go with the flow, and give it a chance, and eventually he comes around to his point. At any rate I am happy that I have my laptop handy to look things up as Zizek is well read, multi-lingual, and highly intelligent. Many of his explanations utilize specialized vocabulary which requires some research. Wikipedia is a life savor. I will also likely post quotes from time to time, and use them to focus my entries. As of now I am still getting into chapter 1 and will post up again once I digest some of this. Some of this is very difficult to fathom.
This blog is my first attempt at an on-line journal. I will be attempting to journal my thoughts related to the book “Less Than Nothing”, by Slavoj Zizek. For the time being it will be a learning devise and will hopefully allow me to develop my thoughts on these topics. The purpose of publishing these thoughts is to have discussion with others who have the same interest in analyzing this book. I do not have any formal training in philosophy and am self taught.