Full review here. (updated)
American political thought is often suspicious of European leftist intellectuals like Zizek (wikipedia) and Bernard Henri-Levy. There are some good reasons to be suspicious, of course, of the effect such deep thinkers potentially have on the many social, intellectual and philosophical British-American traditions they sometimes comically fail to understand. Perhaps Kirsch is a little too suspicious, though. In fact, it seems that in Europe it’s often as easy to tap into anti-American sentiment as it is to tap into anti-communist and socialist sentiment here in America.
Kirsch wants to point out that behind much of Zizek’s thought is…well…communism, socialism and Marxism.
“When Zizek turns up speaking the classical language of Marxism-Leninism, he profits from the assumption that the return of ideas that were once the cause of tragedy can now occur only in the form of farce.”
And perhaps Zizek’s delivering them with the hyperbole that a public intellectual trapped in and suspicious of his role as a public intellectual (you never understand my depths, but I have my moral duties!) does. Perhaps not, though. He goes a little further:
“This ontology of revolution raises some questions. On several occasions, Zizek describes the “utopian” moment of revolution as “divine.” In support of this notion he adduces Walter Benjamin on “divine violence.” “The most obvious candidate for ‘divine violence,'” he writes in Violence, “is the violent explosion of resentment which finds expression in a spectrum that ranges from mob lynchings to revolutionary terror.”
Kirsch wants to point out the dangerous possibility of violent revolution that Marx advocated (always worth pointing out I think) mixed with Benjamin’s Marxism/Jewish and religious mysticism. A nod to terrorists (and terrorism…?)
I might add that perhaps from Hegel, and to Marx’s understanding of Hegel in The Communist Manifesto, there is a lot of transposed Christian metaphysics…a metaphysics re-arranged with somewhat secular aims for the industrial world, but also a metaphysics harboring a similar pursuit of the transcendant.
Have Zizek’s and Bernhard Henri-Levy’s depths been sufficiently addresssed? Is it good enough for you?