Might it be a coincidence that a copy of Slavoj Žižek’s ‘Event’ is to follow Ece Temelkuran’s ‘Euphorie und Wehmut‘? After all, her open letter to Žižek, which had already been published in the ‘New Statesman’ on 12 February 2012, reappears on pages 128-131 of her book and, almost uncannily, there was me reading it while simultaneously looking at the quote on the cover of ‘Event’ stating that Žižek, the “Elvis of Cultural Theory”, is “the most dangerous philosopher in the West.”
Now, I don’t want to get bogged down in the semantics of that quote, however, “philosopher”, yes, most definitely, but, “dangerous“? Well, Temelkuran’s angry, and very informed, response to the Slovenian philosopher viewing an authoritarian and repressive government as a role model for the Arab world, might substantiate the argument that any intellectual support for such a government can only facilitate the crimes that it commits. If so, then Žižek is dangerous.
However, is he being inconsistent when he tells us in the ‘New Statesmen’ on 9 December 2015 that “we need to talk about Turkey”, which is supporting ISIS, pursuing its own war against the Kurds, and blackmailing the European Union? Or, has reality finally caught up on him?
We cannot be sure and after criticisms from those loyal to the government in Ankara were to quickly follow, Žižek reacted in an article entitled, “Is something rotten in the state of Turkey” by claiming that he never actually said that “Turkey buys oil from ISIL” or that “Turkey is fighting the Kurds fighting ISIL in Syria.” Although, both these facts were common knowledge even before his article. Read both articles and you might agree that when it comes to reading these examples of Žižek’s political discourse the level of pragmatic competence required is not too far short of that needed to grasp his mammoth philosophical work, ‘Less than Nothing’. Indeed, we might ask is he not a hypocrite, but then we would be forgetting that Slavoj, the “Elvis of Cultural Theory”, the “most dangerous philosopher in the West”, contains multitudes.
It is important to engage the “political” Žižek on the level where Ece Temelkuran engages him. A level where he is ignorant of the subject matter. That is why his response to his critics on the refugee crisis, and to Sam Kriss in particular, is worth perusing. “There should be no “deeper understanding” of the ISIS terrorists“, he tells us, and, when modifying that statement by placing, “in the sense of “their deplorable acts are nonetheless reactions to European brutal interventions” in parenthesis, he fails to point out that ISIS is in fact being used as a pawn in the greatest of geopolitical games. Philosopher he most certainly is, but he is certainly not a political analyst .
Finally, in an interview with the New Statesman at the end of October 2009, Žižek pointed out that Chomsky reportedly said “… we don’t need theory” and that it is enough just to “tell people, empirically, what is going on.” Disagreeing, Žižek pointed out that although facts are precious, they are left to interpretation and they are not enough, and that “you have to change the ideological background“. That article was entitled “I am a Leninist. Lenin wasn’t afraid to dirty his hands. If you can get power grab it.” We might be certain that Slavoj Žižek doesn’t mind getting his hands dirty, but he is not particularly dangerous. Indeed, regarding the actual threat he poses to the capitalist class, we would do well to look at something Louis C. Frania wrote to celebrate the first anniversary of the founding of the Russian socialist republic:
“Marx was the master of the Revolution in theory. Lenin is the master of the Revolution in action. But as Marx, the man of theory, had great capacity for action, so Lenin, the man of action, has great capacityfor theory.”
Our “Elvis of Cultural Theory” is certainly competitive when it comes to theory, but when it comes to uniting theory and practice? Don’t make me laugh!