From a reader:
I’m sure you’re aware of Adam Kirsch’s article on the Marxist philosopher Slavoj Zizek in The New Republic. Did you notice Kirsch almost tripping into your LF thesis as he calls Zizek a fascist, while at the last falling back into the description of fascism as a phenomenon of the right (“He is willfully blind to the old and obvious conclusion that totalitarian form accepts content from the left and the right”)?
It isn’t the main point of the piece, but Zizek’s standing as academic flavor of the month has been particularly noticeable in theological circles (my own area). I’ve heard basically liberal-thinking Christian pastors and theologians who would be honestly horrified at, e.g., the accusation of anti-semitism in Kirsch’s piece sing Zizek’s praises. It seems to me that the warm reception a Zizek gets in that crowd isn’t fully explained by Kirsch. They don’t take him as a clown; rather, they really do hunger after some kind of critique of liberal democracy and capitalism. This isn’t, I think, because they see these as completely bad things; they struggle for language to describe them as limited, provisional things–as belonging to the present age and thus not final things, and therefore falling under judgment–and a bit of Marx seems handy. Because they don’t fully grasp what Zizek is up to (I was directed to the article through the blog of a pastor of my denomination who had previously found Zizek useful– he now regrets that position), they don’t see the contradiction between their liberal values and his revolutionary thinking.
However this may work itself out, the influence of someone like Zizek is worrying because it reveals diminished capacity to distinguish between ordinary liberals and monsters. The people I know who find this guy interesting and useful are, for the most part, not radicals, but I think they can be duped into supporting radicals. That is, they’ve been conditioned to accept a certain sort of fascism already; it shouldn’t surprise when they don’t immediately reject a more pronounced form.
I think it’s fairly obvious that I find your book very useful, but I’ll say it anyway. Thanks.
Me: I didn’t read it. It’s on my pile. But I will move it up the queue forthwith.