University of Melbourne
Sharpe, Matthew Joel.
A little piece of the real : on the critical theory of Slavoj Zizek.
Degree: 2002, University of Melbourne
This thesis argues two contentions. The first is expository, pertaining to the question of how to read Zizek. The second is critical, and has two components:
i. The Expository Contention:
I argue in the first four chapters that Zizek's intention is to produce a latter-day Marxist critical theory of social reproduction, which would also allow him to locate theoretical possibilities, and possible modes of political agency, capable of challenging the contemporary neoliberalist hegemonic order. The central category in Zizek's critical endeavour is that of 'ideology'. Zizek argues that he can redeem this category against the two charges levelled against it by its manifold 'post' or non-Marxist critics. These are:
- that the classical Marxist model of 'ideology' which sees ideological discourses as capturing subjects at the level of what they consciously think is irrelevant today, yet:
- the expanded forms of the category of 'ideology' in such theorists as Lukacs and Althusser, which perceive 'ideologies' as directly informing social practices, collapse the category into a purely descriptive anthropological category devoid of critical potential.
I contend that is in the light of a desire to generate an adequate descriptive theory of later modern social reproduction via a reclaiming of the category of ideology that Zizek turns to Lacanian psychoanalysis:
- In response to the first charge against the relevance of the category of 'ideology', I hold that Zizek argues that ideologies interpellate individuals primarily at the level of the Freudian unconscious, which he takes to be manifested and reproduced in subjects' intramundane activities, and that ideologies work by structuring regimes of jouissance for subjects in what he terms 'ideological fantasies'.
- In response to the second charge, I hold that Zizek has recourse to a distinction between 'reality' as the horizon of subjects' meaningful experience - which (he thinks) is always structured by ideology - and 'the Real'. Crucially, he conceives this latter not as any substance or solidarity that is wholly outside ideology, but (most deeply) as "the deadlocks of formalisation" preventing any hegemonic ideology from ever achieving full consistency with itself. It is his theory's uncovering of this Real, he contends, that enables it to maintain a critical distance vis-a-vis ideologically reproduced reality, by showing how the latter never achieves the legitimacy it lays claim to. Accordingly:
My position is that Zizek is to be read as proposing a species of immanent critique of ideology which would enable him to denounce contemporary hegemonic discourses and practices as 'ideological', and so point towards ways of unifying theory with contestatory political practice in the contemporary socio-political conjuncture.
ii. The Critical Contention: I contend that the greatest merit of Zizek's theory of ideology is to proffer an explanation of the radical self-reflexivity of power in later modernity. His Lacanism allows him to explain how contemporary capitalism can allow…
Subjects/Keywords: Ž; iž; ek, Slavoj; Postmodernism
to Zotero / EndNote / Reference
APA (6th Edition):
Sharpe, M. J. (2002). A little piece of the real : on the critical theory of Slavoj Zizek. (Doctoral Dissertation). University of Melbourne. Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/11343/114734
Chicago Manual of Style (16th Edition):
Sharpe, Matthew Joel. “A little piece of the real : on the critical theory of Slavoj Zizek.” 2002. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Melbourne. Accessed September 21, 2020.
MLA Handbook (7th Edition):
Sharpe, Matthew Joel. “A little piece of the real : on the critical theory of Slavoj Zizek.” 2002. Web. 21 Sep 2020.
Sharpe MJ. A little piece of the real : on the critical theory of Slavoj Zizek. [Internet] [Doctoral dissertation]. University of Melbourne; 2002. [cited 2020 Sep 21].
Available from: http://hdl.handle.net/11343/114734.
Council of Science Editors:
Sharpe MJ. A little piece of the real : on the critical theory of Slavoj Zizek. [Doctoral Dissertation]. University of Melbourne; 2002. Available from: http://hdl.handle.net/11343/114734