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Ruminations on Zizek’s new book…I

July 18, 2012

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.

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