Shaviro at Pinocchio Theory has written a brilliant critique of Zizek and his use of negation. Special kudos go to the truly magnanimous Dejan for locating Zizek’s article in the first place and “seeding” the blogosphere to generate discussion (highly effective practice of assemblage formation there). K-Punk also weighs in here. I am especially interested in Shaviro’s passing references to both Deleuze’s critique of negation in Nietzsche and Philosophy and the Deleuzian concept of negation, as I’ve been thinking lately about Deleuze’s concept of difference developed there as a sort of potent difference that exceeds the horizon of context, thereby unsettling the possibility of overdetermination and allowing for something like a “singular universal” (which Deleuze developes in Difference and Repetition). Such an affirmative or potent difference would be transhistorical in that it cannot be reduced to its historical setting, but nonetheless is not a universality in the sense of a repetition of the same or something that is identical in all possible worlds, but rather a repetition that produces difference in all possible worlds (it’s productive capacity does not exhaust itself). One might think, for instance, of a great work of art whose fecundity does not exhaust itself but rather generates an infinity of different interpretations in different social and historical settings, suggesting that there’s always something that fails to be integrated. My dear friend Melanie led to these thoughts, when she expressed irritations at some passages in Holland’s book on Deleuze and Guattari where the eternity of the concept is discussed with respect to What is Philosophy?. Just what can this mean? I think such a potent notion of difference is just what Deleuze has in mind in The Logic of Difference when he talks about the eternity of the event that nonetheless cannot be reduced to an empirical happening or state-of-affairs. Here, perhaps, is a rejoinder to Badiou’s truth-procedures taht would allow for a far more nuanced and relational level of analysis. I hope to develop more around this theme in months to come. Anyway, read the post!

Zizek is typically, and willfully, perverse in his praise of 300 (found via Dejan): everyone else on the Left has denounced the film as a fascist spectacle, allegorically praising militarism and the American war in Iraq, so of course Zizek must instead praise the film as a revolutionary allegory of struggle against the American evil empire.

Now, I still haven’t seen 300 (I don’t get to see many movies except on DVD these days), so I obviously can’t judge whose reading is more ‘correct.’ But that can’t stop me from wondering to what extent Zizek’s contrarianism is just a sort of idiotic macho one-upmanship (as in: I can be even more outrageous and anti-commonsensical than anybody else), of the same sort that is routinely practiced by right-wing political economists like David Friedman and Steven Landsburg (who delight in arguring, for instance, that Ralph Nader’s safety regulations caused automobile accidents to increase), or evolutionary theorists like the guys (whose names escape me at the moment) who wrote about how rape was an adaptive strategy.

There is something drearily reactive about always trying to prove that the opposite of what everyone else thinks is really correct. It’s an elitist gesture of trumpeting one’s own independence from the (alleged) common herd; but at the same time, it reveals a morbid dependence upon, or concern with, the very majority opinions that one pretends to scorn. If all you are doing is inverting common opinion, that is the clearest sign possible that you are utterly dependent upon such common opinion: it motivates and governs your every gesture. That is why you need so badly to negate it. Zizek totally depends upon the well-meaning, right-thinking liberal ideology that he sets out to frustrate and contradict at every turn. His own ideas remain parasitic upon those of the postmodern, multicultural consensus that he claims to upset.