We believe that feelings are immutable, but every sentiment, particularly the noblest and most disinterested, has a history.
‘Nietzsche, Genealogy, History’
I was not always a keen reader of theory, that anamorphic genre that blends literary, sociological, philosophical, political, and other conceptual apparatuses under one appellation. Adorno, Bahktin, Barthes, Judith Butler, Derrida, Foucault, Jameson, Kristeva, Lacan, and Lyotard, were never my thing. I’ve read some Marx, some Lenin, and some Mao before. But that’s just it. It was only recently, particularly the beginning of this year that I began to develop a taste for what most readers would readily dismiss as dry and obscure texts. I have Slavoj Žižek, the Slovenian guy, to thank for that.
Yes, I am a fan of Žižek in the same sense that my classmates are fans of the Korean pop boy band Super Junior, or in the way that my other friends are avid followers of J.K Rowling’s Harry Potter, or in the sense that my baby sister follows Spongebob Squarepants on television every weekend, or in the way that some of my acquaintances are obsessed with the Japanese porn star Maria Ozawa. I am a fan in the fullest sense of the word, like the Noranians of the past or the Pinoy Big Brother devotees of today.
What made me a fan of Žižek, first and foremost, is his acerbic humor, his engagement with popular culture, and of course, his reworking of Marxist ideology critique from a Lacanian lens to include the economy of enjoyment as a political factor. But what I like most about Žižek, in contrast to much of his Western postmodern liberal leftist contemporaries, is Žižek’s no nonsense endorsement of the supposed “Lost Cause” of revolutionary upheavals that aim for egalitarian emancipation as the only means of radically transforming the exploitative and oppressive order of the present.
In Michel Foucault’s theorization of power, resistance is inevitably co-opted by power in advance. Žižek, writing in his The Ticklish Subject, goes beyond Foucault by questioning this certainty. That
resistance to power is inherent and immanent to the power ediﬁce (in the sense that it is generated by the inherent dynamic of the power ediﬁce) in no way obliges us to draw the conclusion that every resistance is co-opted in advance, included in the eternal game Power plays with itself.
the key point is that through the effect of proliferation, of producing an excess of resistance, the very inherent antagonism of a system may well set in motion a process which leads to its own ultimate downfall.
Žižek thus attacks the two main strands of postmodern leftism in the west: the liberal, multiculturalist, pluralist Left that aims for “capitalism with a human face” for reinforcing the rule of capital and the self-proclaimed radical anti-capitalist Left for refraining from engaging in a revolutionary project that does not eschew the excesses of such interventions: “the pious desire to deprive the revolution of this excess is simply the desire to have a revolution without revolution.”
Of course, this line, in the Philippine context, does not depart much from the standard national democratic criticism of reformist and pseudo-leftist groups that mislead the people into believing that participation in the parliamentary arena and legal struggles can by themselves effect meaningful social transformation.
Perhaps this uncompromising oppositional stance can account for a bomb threat that cut short Žižek’s talk on his new book, First as Tragedy, Then as Farce, to an audience of 800 in New York City last week? Žižek’s new book, after all, calls on the disparate Lefts of the west “to discard the narratives of the crisis that blame the meltdown on contingent deviations, and expose the mortal flaws of the global capitalist system as such.”
Being a fan of someone doesn’t mean eating him hook, line and sinker though. I, as a fan, also have many hesitations about Žižek. For one, I still can’t follow much of his elaborate discussion of Lacanian Psychoanalysis and German Idealism. Secondly, there’s the matter of some of the notions advanced in his vast body of texts. I don’t agree with Žižek, for example, on his line that the only alternative to U.S. imperialism and China’s emergence as an authoritarian-capitalist power is Europe. Recent developments, such as the Maoist victories in Nepal, the Naxalite upsurge in India, and the unwavering march of the national democratic movement here in the Philippines contradicts Žižek’s comment that “The Third World cannot generate a strong enough resistance to the ideology of the American Dream.” I am also suspicious of Žižek’s opposition of theory and action and the privileging of the former as too easy a way out:
You know, Marx thesis eleven: philosophers have only interpreted the world; the time is, we have now to change it. Maybe, as good Marxists, we should turn it around. Maybe we are trying to change it too much. It’s time to redraw and to interpret it again, because do we really know what is going on today?
We need theory more than ever. Don’t be—don’t feel guilty for withdrawing from immediate engagement and for trying to understand what’s going on.
Shouldn’t the two go side by side instead? ■
 Slavoj Žižek, The Ticklish Subject (London: Verso, 2000), 256.
 Slavoj Žižek, Revolution at the Gates: Žižek on Lenin, the 1917 Writings (London: Verso, 2002), 261.
 Slavoj Žižek, interviewed by Amy Goodman, Democracy Now!, 12 May 2008, http://www.democracynow.org/2008/5/12/world_renowned_philosopher_slavoj_zizek_on