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Kill Your Heroes!

Recently A.C. Grayling and some other notable academics got it in the neck for their role in setting up a private university with fees double the price of other university courses – immediately putting those students who are lesser off at a disadvantage. In so doing, the “telly dons” put paid their commitment to an education, in the words of Grayling himself – “provided free of charge to all those suitably qualified for it.”

Now a number of academics will take part in the London Critical Theory Summer School at Birckbeck, which can set students back the hefty fee of £750 for just two weeks.

Surprisingly, one of those academics planning to take part in the school is Slavoj Zizek.

By consequence of my observing the Hegelian-Lacanian-Contingency Paradigm, I am a fan of Slavoj Zizek’s. I’ve written a great many blog posts and articles using his name and texts, have written about him at length for pop philosophy publications, and the academic journal which bears his name.

(I also do a cracking impression of him, as anyone who knows me can attest to).

But my devotion to his deed does not keep me from raising criticism, where it is due – and here it is due (please do, incidentally, take the name of this blog post with a generous pinch of salt).

Around the time Edward Woollard threw a fire extinguisher from the roof of Tory HQ in Millbank, people were bending over backwards to level criticism at the young man, including and especially leftists and fellow student activists. Zizek, however, had the following to say about the Millbank protests, at a lecture in Birkbeck:

People saying you could have delivered the same message without violence. F*ck them! Of course you can deliver the message. But nobody would hear the message. This is what they like, that 100 people gather and write a message and then you don’t even get the bottom note in the day’s paper… You have to break some windows to get the message through.

Zizek has always been very vocal about what education should be about; the reintegration of people in the public sphere, where space is open  – organising proper, unhindered free debate, away from the corporate’s who want to reign in radicalism and dissent. In 2009, to promote this very cause, the independent student initiative for the right to free education started a peaceful occupation of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences in Zagreb, Croatia. Zizek, in a letter of support to the occupiers (who lasted 35 days), wrote:

Those among us who are old enough remember “specialized further education”, the last attempt of the Communist regime in the old Yugoslavia to streamline education to “social use” and narrow the space of dissent. Western Europe is now rediscovering it – it is called the “Bologna reform of the higher education,” a new attempt to subordinate higher education to the needs of social control and regulation. We need a cultural revolution to fight this dangerous tendency with all means available, violent civic disobedience included. You, students who occupy faculties, are doing not only the right thing, but the necessary thing. Go to the end, persist – no compromise!

There’s no doubt Zizek – a dying breed who still qualifies the term Communist in a positive way – is faithful to radical theory, but his participation in Birkbeck’s critical theory summer school implies an acceptance that radical education should come with a price tag.

And he has been stung before. On being questioned about writing the text accompanying Bruce Weber photos in a catalog for Abercrombie & Fitch, Zizek replied “If I were asked to choose between doing things like this to earn money and becoming fully employed as an American academic, kissing ass to get a tenured post, I would with pleasure choose writing for such journals!”

At the time this was an isolated incident, and could be ignored, but Zizek may fast be becoming an odd sort of communist.

*

The following video has been produced by Bloomsbury Fightback

(see also the Q&A with the Guardian he did in 2008. To the question “What is the worst job you’ve done?” he answered: “Teaching. I hate students, they are (as all people) mostly stupid and boring.” The irony here now slightly damaged).

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  1. June 27, 2011 at 9:19 am

    I’m a little taken aback myself hearing that Zizek would even contemplate doing this. A very odd sort of communist indeed. Of course, it will make the next time he talks about being co-opted by the system quite an interesting little discussion

    • June 27, 2011 at 8:00 pm

      He has managed to get round it before; not taking up academia full-time, publishing commercial books, publishing books with Abercrombie and Fitch – but because he is a foremost leftist critic in academia, many have forgiven and forgot. I myself don’t think he leads by example, he writes good texts (itself a point of contention I know), but he himself is probably no saint, but why should I care. It is because of this that I’ll still read his stuff, and the likelihood is I’ll go on agreeing, but I won’t think twice about voicing my disgust at his hypocrisy.

  2. Mike Killingworth
    June 27, 2011 at 9:50 am

    It is always possible, I suppose, that SZ is engaging in post-post-whateverist irony. Or that he needs the money. I daresay one of us could e-mail him to ask him who he’s going to donate his fee to. Where in the world is the spirit of Che Guevara burning brightest?

    • June 27, 2011 at 8:02 pm

      Oh Mike don’t pretend like you don’t know what post-post-whateverist theory he might be alluding to, you love this stuff! Over the years I’ve tried many times to catch his attention via szizek@yahoo.com but, alas, to no avail.

  3. June 27, 2011 at 2:29 pm

    Absoluely nothing wrong with the ZIZ on this matter whatsoever.

    Writing to Lion Philips in the summer of 1864, Marx revealed … [a]
    remarkable detail of his prosperous new way of life:

    “I have, which will surprise you not a little, been speculating partly in
    American funds, but more especially in English stocks, which are springing
    up like mushrooms this year (in furtherance of every imaginable and
    unimaginable joint stock enterprise) are forced up to a quite unreasonable
    level and then, for most part, collapse. In this way, I have made over £400
    now that the complexity of the political situation affords greater scope, I
    shall begin all over again. It’s a type of operation that makes small
    demands on one’s time, and it’s worth while running some risk in order to
    relieve the enemy of his money.”

    • June 27, 2011 at 8:04 pm

      I see, so Zizek is trying to buck the system from inside is he – or is it not that radicalness is commercialisable now. Doesn’t Zizek say himself that Hollywood today is anti-capitalist, because capitalism has worked out that Klein or Moore are no threat to their hegemony? Anyway, Marx or Zizek as people are not leaders, their texts are what we live by is all.

  4. woodscolt
    June 28, 2011 at 12:22 pm

    “Ah, you say you’re a socialist, but I see you still wear SHOES” – Jeremy Hardy.

  5. June 28, 2011 at 3:08 pm

    Why so ‘taken aback’ by Zizek’s mercenary cynicism? He’s been a lifelong bullshit meister. His ‘theories’ are cobbled together cut’n’pastes of Hegel, Lacan and plagiarised 90s film writing. With added layers of racism and misogyny. He misquotes, lies and evades criticism by playing the jester buffoon when it suits him. He has little to actually ‘say’ except Robespierre and Stalin were great guys really, and Hitler “wasn’t violent enough!” Just because he says he ‘loves’ communism doesn’t stop him from being an over-exposed mockery of Marxism at every turn.

    He’s a millionaire for a reason. He’s a salesman with desperate, confused customers. Look at the content behind the brand, and you may find there’s little there. Is it any wonder he’s pals with Lady Gaga? They serve similar functions in their respective businesses: serving up a steady diet of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

    • June 28, 2011 at 3:35 pm

      That was alright until you said Zizek and Gaga are pals, then I chuckled aloud.

  6. June 28, 2011 at 5:41 pm

    Pals in the flesh or virtually – they’re actors in the same spectacle. They definitely have a lot in common.

    • June 28, 2011 at 7:24 pm

      Do you think they have a long distance relationship online?

  7. June 29, 2011 at 4:11 am

    Yeah – they compare notes about what hackneyed 80s po-mo they’re ripping off this week. She’s got Madonna b-sides to pass off as ‘new’. He’s got paragraphs to crib from back issues of ‘Screen’ magazine. They’re both wondering how they could be such sensations with jaded consumers, being as grotesque and empty as they are. She’s giving last rites to pop while he’s turning Marxism into a Jethro joke.

    However, she’s probably advising him to go easy on the coke!

  8. June 29, 2011 at 4:56 am

    kasper is well mental. LoZ

    another internetT blerggH commenttattaYtor spilling electroniC sewagE onto blank whitE boxxes

  9. June 29, 2011 at 1:48 pm

    “But If We Look Closhley, Ish It Not Ackshully Der Reversh?”

    (Sniff, snort, sniff)

    “Ish not my Maxishm ackshully der load of rat-wing bollocksh shold to layshy shtoodentsh who cant be arshed ackshully reading der Maxsh?”

    (Sniff, grunt, sniff)

  10. June 29, 2011 at 3:19 pm

    “Der Left cannot moof on until dey are honesht contemplatink der black mansh penish! Do not we white weshtern millionaire intellectooalsh need to undershtand dat VE are now der oppreshed? Dush not der proof lie in der underpants?”

    “Ish not der rapisht der true victim? I babble about thish in my latesht book: Blue Velvet: A Manifesto For Christian Love. I compare it vith der Marxisht purity of wife-beating. Hegel vood agree! I mishquote him too proof it!”

    (cue deafening applause from a crowd of white rich people, mostly male – Zizzo excuses himself for a toilet snort).

    At least Jethro can tell jokes properly…

    • June 29, 2011 at 3:35 pm

      Instead of being offended, all I could think while reading that was ‘wow, I’d love to read Blue Velvet: A Manifesto For Christian Love’…

  11. June 29, 2011 at 4:22 pm

    Although ‘joking’, he’s pretty much said the above more than once. Including speculation on black men’s genitals, Lacanian babble on movie rape chic, and tons of crap about why Marxists need to heed the word of frothing torturer and misogynist St. Paul.

    He’s Jim Davidson with a PHD. Really, sack the creep off.

    • June 29, 2011 at 4:47 pm

      I can’t verify whether or not Jim Davidson holds a PhD or not

  12. June 29, 2011 at 5:26 pm

    Going by the popularity of Zizek, Jim’s got a good chance of getting one now. He can certainly afford it.

  13. Anna
    July 21, 2011 at 9:36 pm

    I think this school has been unfairly represented. The summer school receives no funding from the University of London (possibly because it is considered too radical). Given that this is the case, the students have to pay for the rooms and facilities, the lecturer’s travel and accomodation – and a bit extra so that some scholarships are available. No one is walking away from this with their pockets heavy – I would suggest that it’s better to offer the course for a fee (which some universities will pay for their students) than that it not take place at all.

    • July 22, 2011 at 9:36 pm

      To some this may sound petite, but if some excluded from entering a course because of financial barriers then I wonder what “radicals” are doing partaking in it.

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