Slavoj Zizek is widely regarded as one of the most clever, well-read radical theorists living among us today. Yet, when I read his ‘critical’ media interventions, like his latest piece in LRB, I often find myself asking: why, exactly? Like many so-called ‘leftist’ intellectuals before him, it seems to me, Zizek has resigned himself to standing on the sidelines of the political playing field, from where he can safely throw his overly pathologized grand narratives at us, variably shouting simplistic one-liners and humorless abuse at whoever – willingly or not – has appeared on the stage as a political actor. Like in this turd of an article, where he mocks refugees for their “intransigent utopianism”, denounces the call for open borders as a “hypocritical” demand, defends European nationalism (for, well, otherwise it could only get worse), and patronizingly instructs refugees to “respect the laws and social norms of European states”. For “that is the price to be paid for European hospitality”. As could be expected, he finally wraps this reactionary bullshit in his usual most-radical-kid-on-the-block rhetoric, decrying his opponents as “left liberals” (for that, at best, is pretty much everyone who dares to disagree with Slavoj), and pompously declaring that only his flawed arguments will eventually show us the way to a new communism-to-come. I don’t see why the radical left would be in need any longer of vain, old, white men like Zizek. His analyses are no more than mere symptoms of the capitalist culture industry that he so often scrutinizes. His critique of left activists (like, in this case, no-border activists organizing in solidarity with refugees) applies first and foremost to himself: it is only an excuse to sit back, accept the world as it is, and in the meantime hypocritically enjoy one’s own privileges. But at least, with Zizek’s help, we can do so “critically”. It is time for us to forget about Slavoj.
Mathijs van de Sande on The Non-Existence of Norway (LRB)