Zizek’s Plague of Fantasies

Slavoj Zizek
The Plague of Fantasies
Area: Rhetorical and Critical Theory
Notes from class

•    Implicitly talks about persuasion
•    What about rhetoric in Zizek?
•    Nealon: “Zizek’s Paradox”
•    How are desires created?
•    Beyond symbolic
•    What about desiring?
o    Same as Deleuze
•    Althusserian read
•    Empty gesture at face value
o    Affirm it?
•    Claim the choice
o    Retroactive
o    Sacrificial characters
•    Privitization
•    Real is not the truth
•    Three truths:
o    Symbolic Real: Context; only notice when failed
o    Real Real: Unassimable real—horror film
•    Close enough where it gets disjunctive
o    Imaginative Real: Full Monty—nude in two ways—sublime; prize but always looking awry
•    Still plays value of the true
o    Badiou: True
•    Through Plato: a truth we’re going to get used to
•    What’s the real, truth, authentic in Zizek?
•    Continuously tells us how we can get purchase on something behind: cynic
•    Something escapes—that’s why it works
o    Foucualt’s disciplinary methods
•    Openness of interpretation—thing Zizek hates?
•    Actions linked to subjectivity
•    Active resistance built in?
o    Minima Moralia
•    What you still really are (i.e. Bill Gates)
•    Symptom → Fetish => Freud can’t treat
•    Depoliticized economics
o    Bill Gates as humanitarian, but really still himself
•    Idea of fetish is the transposition
o    Then no contradiction
•    Layers
•    Reality TV: only believable if people don’t recognize it
•    One can never experience real but still want to critique it
Critical Moments in the Text
•    7: “Fantasy does not mean that when I desire a strawberry cake and cannot get it in reality, I fantasize about eating it; the problem it, rather, how do I know that I desire a strawberry cake in the first place? This is what fantasy tells me.  This role of fantasy hinges on the fact that ‘there is no sexual relationship,’ no universal formula or matrix guaranteeing a harmonious sexual relationship with one’s partner: because of the lack of this universal formula, every subject has to invent a fantasy of his or her own, a private formula for the sexual relationship—for a man, the relationship with a woman is possible only inasmuch as she fits his formula.”
•    8: “Motifs of the struggle for recognition, of the dialectical connection between recognition of desire and desire for recognition.”
•    30: “And traversing the fantasy involves precisely the acceptance of the traumatic fact of radical closure: there is no opening, contingency as such is necessary…Bearing in mind that our capacity to desire involves the paradoxical structure of the forced choice, […] one can fully appreciate the radical character of traversing the fantasy: by means of this traversing, the gap is closed, the structure of the forced choice is suspended, the closure of being is fully accepted, the hysterical game of I offer you X, on condition that you reject it, which structures our belonging to a community, is over.”
•    31: “According to doxa, fantasy stands for the moment of closure: fantasy is the screen by means of which the subject avoids the radical opening of the enigma of the Other’s desire.”
•    49: “Jouissance is thus the ontological aberration, the disturbed balance which accounts for the passage from Nothing to Something.  […] Jouissance is thus the ‘place’ of the subject.”
•    53: “Historicity is not the zero-level state of things secondarily obfuscated by ideological fixations and naturalizing misrecognitions; historicity itself, the space of contingent discursive constructions, must be sistained through an effort, assumed, regained again and again.”
•    88: “So we have, on the one side, the ‘machine in the ghost’ (a ship whieh sails by itself, with no crew; an animal or a human being which is revealed to be a comples mechanism of joints and wheels), and, on the other, the ‘ghost in the machine’ (wsome sign of plus-de-jouir in the machine giving rise to the effect of ‘It’s alive!’).
•    93; “Hegalian totality is not an organic Whole within which each element sticks to its limited place, but a ‘crazy’ totality in which a position reverts to its Other in the very movement of its excessive exaggeration – the dialectical ‘link’ of partial elements emerges only through their ‘exaggeration.’”
•    98: “The Real as ‘impossible is precisely the excess of ‘immediacy’ which cannot be ‘reified’ in a fetish”
•    Summary of “Cyberspace, or, the Unbearable Closure of Being”
o    In this chapter, Zizek discusses Internet sexual partners and the division of mind and body reaction to these encounters.  Even though a screen separates the partners, both have the possibility to experience real, individual pleasure.  By using technological interfaces to foster sexual activity, intimacy becomes complicated.  Zizek notes that cybersex is not isolated and masturbatory, but rather something that adds to sexual arousal: “people use pornography (or other technical sex devices) not only when they lack ‘flesh-and-blood’ partners but also to ‘spice up’ their ‘real’ sex life” (138).
From Untimely Mediations
“Because of its absolute immanence to the symbolic, the Real cannot be positively signified; it can only be shown, in a negative gesture, as the inherent failure of symbolization: ‘if what we are talking about are the limits of a signifying system, it is clear that those limits cannot themselves be signified, but have to show themselves as the interruption or breakdown of the process of signification. […] the real as impossible can be shown (rendered) only as the failure of the process which, precisely, aims at signifying it…” (217).
So, this is where we end up this semester—that the Real is actually not really real.  I guess we were bound to get here, and it seems like the perfect circle back to the Sophists. At a basic level, Sophists are tricksters—they can fool their paying audiences into believing that something that is neither Real nor real. Even though Zizek never makes the connection to Sophistry, (probably because he doesn’t have the balls to…) we do see him make the turn to ethics, rather than the truth.  (Question: is Real the same as truth?)  If Zizek says that the Real can only be shown negatively (within, for example, physical, representational after-effects of loss), then is the ethical the positive gesture (the immediate experience)?
Zizek is concerned with representational effects: what happens to me can be caused by something not actually there, but I can actually feel its a/effects here.  I would go to Zizek’s example of online pornography and orgasm, but since I talk about that in my paper, I’d like to talk about belief instead.  When he defines belief as “the shadowy domain between outright falsity and positive truth,” I immediately think of Stengers’ distinction between “cause and reason” (108, 45).  As a researcher, I find myself wanting to know cause and reason, as well as the truth and the false.  But according to Zizek, if truth and reason occur in a delayed realization, then is the opposite of the Foucaudian notion of parrhesiates in which the truth/Real lies in the immediacy of the telling.
Okay, so I realize that I am making interchanging the words truth and Real, and I’m not sure if that’s the right move to make.  Zizek distinguishes between “objective reality” and “subjective reality” in the following:
The true point of idealism is not the solipsistic one (‘there is not objective reality, merely our subjective representations of it’); idealism claims, on the contrary that the In-itself of ‘objective reality’ is definitely to be distinguished from mere subjective representations – its point is only that it is the synthetic act of the transcendental subject which transforms the multitude of representations into ‘objective reality.’ In short, idealism’s point is not there is no In-itself, but that the ‘objective’ In-itself, in its very opposition to subjective representations, is posited by the subject” (215).
I’m not sure that the above passage explains this distinction, but maybe it helps to think about the divide between the two types of reality if we’re looking to define the Real and truth.  What I think Zizek is saying is that ‘objective reality’ is more (R?)real—its experience is in itself, and that’s where the truth lies.  (This could be where we could employ Foucault’s parrhesiates since the truth lies in the telling, In-itself.)  Comparatively, ‘subjectively reality’ might be the telling that happens after an event—one’s vain survival so that s/he can “tell” her/his story.  The subjective reality of this last situation R/real, but is instead a subjective truth (?).
Hmph.  The more I try to differentiate between truth and real, the more confused I become.  Maybe there isn’t much difference between them.  Or, maybe I’m missing it completely.  Anyway, I would like to talk about how, or if, the truth and R/real are different.


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August 2008
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