What would the young Slavoj Žižek think of the old Slavoj Žižek?

When rereading Žižek’s The Plague of Fantasies I’ve found myself preoccupied by the contrast between his writing at this point (1997 when he was in his late 40s) and his more recent transition into a post-left figure who is increasingly to popular philosophy as Glenn Greenwald or Matt Taibbi are to political journalism. Leaving aside the grifter hypothesis (i.e. it’s a self-conscious act because his legacy audience is declining) it leaves the question of how we explain this transition, particularly the extent to which it is grounded in a performance of questioning the shibboleths of the liberal left in order to utters what has become unutterable. It’s interesting therefore to be reminded that in the Plague of Fantasies he actually advocates something quite like what the anti-‘woke’ right allege is a conspiracy to close down free exchange:

If racist attitudes were to be rendered acceptable for the mainstream ideologico-political discourse, this would radically shift the balance of the entire ideological hegemony … Today, in the face of the emergence of new racism and sexism, the strategy should be to make such enunciations unutterable, so that anyone relying on them automatically disqualifies himself (like, in our universe, those who refer approvingly to Fascism). One should emphatically not discuss ‘how many people really died in Auschwitz’, what are ‘the good aspects of slavery’, ‘the necessity of cutting down on workers’ collective rights’, and so on; the position here should be quite unashamedly ‘dogmatic’ and ‘terrorist’; this is not a matter for ‘open, rational, democratic discussion’.

The Plague of Fantasies pg 34

Well said. Much as for example one shouldn’t engage in conversations about whether Trans women are ‘really’ women. In fact Žižek in his late 40s holds that “the measure of ideologico-political ‘regression’ is the extent to which such propositions become acceptable in public discourse. Would he therefore see his older self as a symptom of such regression? Leaving aside the political differences it’s hard not to be struck by the intellectual vibrancy of his writing at this point, fizzing with energy as it effortlessly moves between analytical registers with a coherence which had largely deserted him within 10 years.

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