Listening to Žižek’s dreams

By Senior Editor of SocialBusiness.org

Image via Verso Books

One of the great things about being back in school again (there are great things and also not-so-great things) is being exposed to talks on talks on talks on talks. There are more talks at Columbia than occupied cabs in New York City. But there are some taks that I would forfeit all of the unoccupied cabs in NYC for. And Slavoj Žižek was one of them. I don’t agree with everything he says—who does?! Even the moderator, a Columbia professor, at the talk I went to on October 23rd, admitted he didn’t. And it was obvious that the two longtime friends had more than a mountain of disagreements. But it’s exactly this culture of agreement (of comfort, if you will) that Žižek disdains. And well, I couldn’t agree more.

Here’s the blurb of Žižek’s latest book, The Year of Dreaming Dangerously, from Verso Books, a self-proclaimed radical publishing company (by the way, Žižek admitted to hating the cover):

Call it the year of dreaming dangerously: 2011 caught the world off guard with a series of shattering events. While protesters in New York, Cairo, London, and Athens took to the streets in pursuit of emancipation, obscure destructive fantasies inspired the world’s racist populists in places as far apart as Hungary and Arizona, achieving a horrific consummation in the actions of mass murderer Anders Breivik.

The subterranean work of dissatisfaction continues. Rage is building, and a new wave of revolts and disturbances will follow. Why? Because the events of 2011 augur a new political reality. These are limited, distorted—sometimes even perverted—fragments of a utopian future lying dormant in the present.

Did the year of 2011 change anything in your life? Personally? With your social enterprise? How did these politics—these politics of rage—affect you? During the talk, Žižek talked a bit about his book, but mostly not, mostly points he’d chosen to discuss perhaps the night before. The other panelists had no idea what he was talking about. With that being said, the night was all over the place but I came away with tidbits and pockets of ideas that could spark. I struggle with the structural incompatibility of capitalism and democracy and the way in which liberalism attempts to create an adherence… But in talks like these, someone always asks a similar question. How do we get down to on-the-ground action? We’re all here (and by we, I meant the majority of people there that night, a white, probably middle class audience) and we’re all sort of far removed from, for example, lost jobs and all of the pressures that helped to make 2011 as such a year full of rage. The Left, the panel said, has a fear of governance. We need to get messy, Žižek said. Because what a mess we’re in.

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