Tarrying with the Negative: Kant, Hegel, and the Critique of Ideology (Post-Contemporary Interventions)
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In Tarrying with the Negative, Žižek challenges the contemporary critique of ideology, and in doing so opens the way for a new understanding of social conflict, particularly the recent outbursts of nationalism and ethnic struggle. Are we, Žižek asks, confined to a postmodern universe in which truth is reduced to the contingent effect of various discursive practices and where our subjectivity is dispersed through a multitude of ideological positions? No is his answer, and the way out is a return to philosophy. This revisit to German Idealism allows Žižek to recast the critique of ideology as a tool for disclosing the dynamic of our society, a crucial aspect of which is the debate over nationalism, particularly as it has developed in the Balkans—Žižek's home. He brings the debate over nationalism into the sphere of contemporary cultural politics, breaking the impasse centered on nationalisms simultaneously fascistic and anticolonial aspirations. Provocatively, Žižek argues that what drives nationalistic and ethnic antagonism is a collectively driven refusal of our own enjoyment.
Using examples from popular culture and high theory to illuminate each other—opera, film noir, capitalist universalism, religious and ethnic fundamentalism—this work testifies to the fact that, far more radically than the postmodern sophists, Kant and Hegel are our contemporaries.
other's desire, so that what "we" desire may turn out to be the very destruction of our object of desire (if, in this way, we deal a blow to the other's desire). In other words, human desire, insofar as it is alwaysalready mediated by fantasy, can never be grounded in (or translated back into) our "true interests": the ultimate assertion of our desire, sometimes the only way to assert its autonomy in the face of a "benevolent" other providing for our Good, is to act against our Good. 18
today's mass media more and more confer the role of the Enemy par excellence (in the guise of selfdestructive "radical Evil": Saddam Hussein, the narco-cartels...) is to be grasped as a reaction to the ruling Spinozism, as its inherent Other. The result is sad enough, although theoretically very instructive: it is as if today the usual opposition of Good qua unyielding ethical attitude, the readiness to risk all rather than compromise one's sense of justice, and of Evil qua opportunist
ordinary, conscious gaze, i.e., the inscriptions "do this, buy that..." which bombard the subject from all around. The fantasy of the film thus provides us with glasses which literally enable us to "see ideology" qua voluntary servitude, to perceive the hidden injunctions we follow when we experience ourselves as free individuals. The "error" of the film, of course, is to hypothesize the ordinary material existence of ideological injunctions: their status is actually that of pure symbolic
enunciation": in it, he is present qua a pure symbolic point freed of all enunciated content. For that reason, full speech is never to be conceived of as a simple and immediate filling-out of the void which characterizes the empty speech (as in the usual opposition of "authentic" and "nonauthentic" speech). Quite the contrary, one must say that it is only empty speech by way of its very emptiness (of its distance toward the enunciated content which is posited in it as totally indifferent)
that to which the thing in question belongs). For Hegel, however, it is infinite judgment with its abstract, indeterminate negation which brings forth the "truth" of negative judgment -- why? Perhaps what offers a key to this enigma is the logic of exchange at work here: negative judgment remains within the confines of an "equivalent exchange"; implicitly at least, we get something in exchange for what we renounce (by saying that a thing is "an object of nonsensible intuition," we obtain in