Adam Kotsko at the LARB
In what has become a kind of ritual, the reader of a review of Žižek’s work always learns that Žižek is simultaneously hugely politically dangerous and a clown with no political program whatsoever, that he is an apologist for the worst excesses of twentieth-century Communism and a total right-wing reactionary, both a world-famous left-wing intellectual and an anti-Semite to rival Hitler himself.
The goal is not so much to give an account of Žižek’s arguments and weigh their merits as to inoculate readers against Žižek’s ideas so they feel comfortable dismissing them. To find left-wing thinkers and movements simultaneously laughable and dangerous, disorganized and totalitarian, overly idealistic and driven by a lust for power is to suggest: there is no alternative. Rather than simply knocking around a poor, misunderstood academic in the public square, it is an attempt to shut down debate on the basic structure of our society. The rolling disaster of contemporary capitalism — war, crisis, hyper-exploitation of workers, looming environmental catastrophe — demands that we think boldly and creatively to develop some kind of livable alternative. Žižek can help.