Slavoj Zizek needs no introduction – which in English means he definitely does need an introduction. He’s written numerous books – among which I mention only three.
2012: My own interest in Professor Zizek began with a book he co-authored with Boris Gunjevic here, entitled God in Pain: inversions of the Apocalypse – an exchange of ideas concerning the emancipatory nature of Christian belief.
2013: Less Than Nothing, is literally a heavyweight engagement with Hegel – part of which includes a spirited defence of Christianity – or at least, genuine, post-traumatic Christianity which takes the Cross of Christ far more seriously than the “It’s Friday but Sunday’s Coming” approach.
Last Week saw the publication of Professor Zizek’s latest book, The Courage of Hopelessness, which is a brilliant set of reflections on the socialist failure to overcome the ravages of global capitalism. This book, I think, really confirmed for me what I had suspected about Zizek’s significance for theology – and that is that his writing is akin to Pandora’ box:
His book sits there on your shelf, crying out to be read but the moment you open it, all manner of chaos is unleashed into our neatly packaged theologies. That, it seems to me, is the positive impact of Professor Zizek upon Christianity. But it goes further still – because in the original story Pandora got the lid back on the jar while there was still hope. And that remaining bit of hope can be regarded as particularly cruel because it is baseless. In his latest book, Zizek shakes all the hope out of the jar as well. For me – that merciless, traumatic loss of hope is where Theology begins… As a Theologist then, Zizek leads us to the foot of the cross – and God knows what’s going to happen there.
Of course, this view of Zizek is not universally shared, so over the last few weeks I have perniciously gathered quotations from various senior figures around the University to hear what they make of Zizek’s work. Here are some of the repeatable statements:
“If he’s so important, why have I never heard of him?”
“Zizekian thought is an ideological explosive device”
“I have absolutely no idea what that guy is talking about”
“I think Zizek is utterly brilliant – he always manages to agree with me!”
A very senior philosopher, who had been singing the praises of Plato as a philosopher and why it was important to study Plato, turned his attention to Zizek: “Zizek is totally irresponsible. He has gained an enormous following, especially among young people, and he is irresponsible with his influence, with all his preoccupation with subversion and trauma.” Now to anyone who know anything about Plato, the irony is profound – and did not dawn with on this professor of Philosophy until I asked him whether I should bring some hemlock to Westfield House.
“It’s very fashionable to hate Zizek”
“Zizek’s utter rejection of all hope, is the only path to biblical hope”
Ladies and Gentlemen, Slavoj Zizek.