Andrew Robinson - Theory Blog

Friday, October 08, 2004

Zizek's Marx - prepublication version, co-authored with Simon Tormey

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This paper represents work in progress. Please ask for permission to cite.
Zizek’s ‘Marx’: ‘Sublime Object’ or a ‘Plague of Fantasies’?
Andrew Robinson and Simon Tormey
University of Nottingham
Of the many attractions that draw contemporary radical theorists to the work of Slavoj Zizek
one of the most significant is, it seems, his commitment to an uncompromising ‘Marxism’.
Zizek claims not only to be Marxist in the broad sense, but an orthodox Marxist, an ‘old
fashioned dialectical materialist’. This otherwise peculiar desire to claim for himself the mantle
of ‘Marxist’ is evidently important for a number of reasons, political, strategic and theoretical.
Firstly it serves to problematise the assumption that as someone whose primary points of
reference are more obviously Lacan, Hegel and German idealism he would be no friend of Marx
nor, indeed, of ‘dialectical materialism’. This problematisation serves in turn to neutralise
potential left critics by allowing him to stand in their midst as if to say ‘It’s OK comrades: I’m
one of you’. In recent work his identification with ‘Marxism’ also operates to allow him to don
the mantle of political ‘radical’ vis-à-vis his intellectual opponents whom he delights in accusing
of political moderacy and ineffectuality. His radicalism is, he wants to tell us, of the muscular,
‘serious’ and transformational kind, the kind we associate with being a ‘Marxist’, whereas the
radicalism of Mouffe, Laclau and Butler (to take three obvious targets) is effete, ‘reasonable’ and
inconsequential. Thus Zizek’s ‘Marxism’ is a key totemic device serving to ward off potential
left radical criticisms of his position whilst at the same time serving to ‘legitimate’ his stance in
the eyes of the latter as against his intellectual ‘opponents’.
What we want to argue in this paper is that Zizek’s claim to be a ‘Marxist’ is essentially
specious and unrelated either philosophically or politically to Marx’s work. This is not the same
as claiming that Marx’s work is necessarily superior in all respects, nor, indeed, that Marx’s
oeuvre should be treated as a set of holy texts, impossible to refine and immune to criticism. Our
concern is rather to reveal the shallowness of Zizek’s attachment to Marxist categories and thus
the disingenuous nature of the intellectual game he is playing. Zizek‘s ‘Marxism’ is, we want t o
argue, a cover for an approach that is philosophically, theoretically and politically at odds with
Marx’s own work. For this reason we argue that those who wish to develop a progressive,
transformational politics ‘after’ Marx should recognise Zizek’s work for what it is: the
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development of an idealist (in the philosophical sense) and politically reactionary position of the
sort Marx himself was critical of.
Commodity Fetishism, Capital and Class
Zizek’s attachment to Marxism is barely apparent in his early work and even in his more recent
texts there is little beyond the occasional strident assertion of his ‘dialectical materialism’ t o
suggest that Marx is a primary source for his work. Hegel, Schelling and Lacan are regularly
invoked in the course of his meditations on film, literature and social theory, Marx is not. Zizek
does however deploy a number of concepts which he claims to have derived from Marx or which
clearly have a Marxian origin. This is particularly the case with ‘commodity fetishism’, the use
of which predates his recent ‘Marxist’ turn. Zizek’s use of the term is however highly
idiosyncratic, which in turn shows the thinness of his attachment to core Marxist categories and
the manner in which an essentially Lacanian approach has been rendered Marxisant. As the
concept of commodity fetishism gets to the root of the relationship between subject and object,
consciousness and material reality, it is worth exploring Zizek’s account of the term at the
According to Zizek, Marx uses the term commodity fetishism not to attack existing
society, but to attempt to obtain critical distance from it1. For Zizek commodity fetishism is
most definitely not about relations between people being misperceived as relations between
things. Rather it is about how an extra-personal abstraction is able to become a ‘direct feature of
social life’.2 This process of becoming is not a form of human action; rather a universal becomes
‘for itself’ via individuals, and often against their will. Such becoming is experienced by those
who lack a proper place in the Universal as an ‘extremely violent move’.3 Zizek rejects the idea
that commodity fetishism involves misrecognition of a human relation as a thing. Rather the
‘bourgeois subject’ thinks he or she sees a commodity as a human relation, but he or she acts
towards it as if it were a thing; therefore they must really think, on the level of fantasy, that it is
a thing.4 So the problem for Zizek is misrecognition of the direct effectiveness of the symbolic
as a human relation or action. Misperceiving things as relations is not the only form of
fetishism; ‘an even more tricky fetishist reification is at work when we (mis)perceive the
situation as simply involving “relations between people”, and fail to take into account the
invisible symbolic structure which regulates these relations’.5 The effects of actions such as a
bombing campaign are for Zizek incompatible with viewing these actions as individual acts.6 It is
the symbolic order, language, that determines the fate of things. Materiality obscures an
‘immaterial virtual act which effectively runs the show’.7 Commodity fetishism occurs when one
knows that something is true, but acts as if is not.8 The concept in Zizek’s work thus expresses
two apparently opposite gestures – the humanisation of the symbolic, and the reification of
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relations – both of which involve a short circuit between the absent social structure and its
positive elements.9
Not only does Zizek want to denounce the humanist notion of fetishism as the
displacement of human relations onto things, he also wishes to assert the inevitability of
fetishism. ‘The paradox to be maintained’ he claims, ‘is that displacement is original and
constitutive … There are some beliefs which are from the very outset “decentred” beliefs of the
Other; the phenomenon of the “subject supposed to believe” is thus universal and structurally
necessary’.10 Given this Lacanian position on the constitutive character of alienation, it is
unclear how Zizek can use the concept of commodity fetishism in a critical way at all. The
necessity of fetishism would seem to preclude the critical distance Zizek sees Marx as establishing.
Nevertheless in his recent work Zizek claims that his version of commodity fetishism is shared by
Marx, and therefore that Marx in common with Zizek thinks that ideology cannot operate
without disbelieving participants.11 It would seem from Marx’s own writings, however, that he
was closer to the ‘humanist’ model Zizek denounces than to Zizek’s position. Thus we read in
Capital that inter alia commodities involve the ‘alienation of the product as a means of
appropriating it’;12 the primitive commodity appears as an autonomous thing; money is the form
of appearance; commodities have a ‘mystical character’; value is a relation between persons
concealed beneath a material shell’ and so on and so forth. 13 Even the casual reader of Capital
could hardly fail to notice therefore that appearance, manipulation, concealment, misperception
are at the very heart of Marx’s thinking about fetishism, all of which presupposes that there is a
distinction to be made between how things appear and how things are - and ‘how things are’ is
social, not primarily symbolic, since language, like commodities, is a human construct: ‘The alien
being ... can only be man himself’.14 This is however a distinction Zizek wishes to deny because
of his prior attachment to a Lacanian framework that insists that the Real is that which resists
symbolisation and hence which can never be known. As is clear, therefore, Zizek is drawing on a
psychoanalytic, not a Marxist conception of fetishism. Indeed for Zizek the latter’s conception
is clearly ‘humanistic’, drawing as it does on the availability of a world of non-alienated activity
and a model of non-alienated human relations, all of which Zizek denies. In turn, from a Marxian
perspective Zizek’s concept of commodity fetishism is a reified misrecognition rooted in
bourgeois society and a bourgeois model of subjectivity in which the individual is primordially
alienated by virtue of his or her lack of access to the Real. Clearly these are not merely different,
but mutually incompatible accounts of the description of the relationship of self to world.
Given the above, it is hardly surprising that Zizek’s account of the nature of capitalism is
similarly at odds with Marx’s. His account accepts, for example, that capital is an external force,
‘a machine which follows inherent natural laws and is … completely ignorant of human affairs,
and underlying source or spectral logic which determines but ignores “reality”’.15 Though he is
keen to criticise the ‘naturalisation’ of capitalism, he accepts the claim to the effect that
capitalism is productive and indeed that productivity cannot occur outside this system.16 It is for
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this reason that he occasionally identifies capitalism with ‘the Lacanian Real’ thereby
underscoring its permanence and constitutive character.17 Zizek’s critique of capitalism is not
therefore ‘material’ in nature. He does not, that is, regard capitalism as definable in terms of a
given set of social relations. Nor, with occasional exceptions, does he regard as based on a
fundamental contradiction between social relations and the development of the forces of
production, and thus as unsustainable in the long term. On the contrary, his problem with
capitalism, particularly contemporary liberal-capitalism, appears to be that the latter lacks the
fundamental antagonisms Marx describes and thus is ‘boring’ when compared with pre-capitalist
societies. Capitalism in Zizek’s account has evidently become all things to all men and women: it
is inclusive, consensual, permissive and tolerant.18 It is thus idiosyncrasy, perversity,
transgression that characterises capitalism, not repression and submission to the law of capital as
Marx insists. Even the class character of capitalist production has been displaced by a leaderless
managerialism that extols mobility and equality of opportunity.19 It is for this reason that Zizek
is in recent work so critical of the ‘identity politics’ extolled by contemporary left radicals.20
This is, according to Zizek, exactly the politics that helps capitalism sustain itself and which
reaffirms its own logic of ‘deterritorialisation’ and boundlessness to the new and untried.21 The
problem with capitalism is not that it is too repressive, but ironically that it is not repressive
enough.22 The lack of fundamental antagonisms means that we are denied the ‘properly political’
attitude of ‘Us and Them’, the violent ‘carving of the field’ into the True and the False, the
‘forced choice’ of ‘the Master’, all of which Zizek regards as necessary to avoid chronic
neurosis/psychosis and immobilism.23 The result is that capitalist society appears weak and flabby.
It is a world of suffocating Good which in turn necessitates the ‘return of the repressed’ in a
‘brute Real of irrational violence’ of the sort unleashed in ex-Yugoslavia.24 Thus Zizek is not
primarily opposed to capitalism because of its inhuman effects, the powerlessness it imposes, its
wastefulness, or its elitist, inegalitarian and undemocratic practices, all of which feature as part of
Marx’s account of it. Rather his disappointment with capitalism is with the manner by which a
normalising, authoritarian logic has given way to a polymorphous ‘free for all’ in which
‘anything goes’. These are the sentiments of a psychoanalyst searching for anchors t o
‘normalise’ overly-neurotic behaviour, not those of a thinker interested in the creation of
democratic socialism, however defined.
Such sentiments also betray the speculative and superficial nature of Zizek’s analysis of
capitalism when compared to Marx’s. What Zizek finds to be the essence of capitalism (the
suffocating Good, tolerance, reflexivity etc.) is for Marx only its official cover or guise. The
forms of subjectivity produced under capitalist conditions are analysed by Marx as ideological
forms covering over the reality of oppression, hierarchy and powerlessness25. ‘Tolerance’ is
mere appearance and the ‘reflexivity’, ‘freedom’ and ‘independence’ of the capitalist subject are
fictions papering over the dominion of capital.26 As Marx puts it in Grundrisse, the kind of
liberty found under capitalist conditions ‘is thus at the same time the most complete suppression
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of all individual liberty and total subjugation of individuality to social conditions which take the
form of material forces’.27 Far from involving ‘generalised reflexivity’ and the ‘loss of the big
Other’, capitalism is, in Marx’s work, theorised as a system of domination and anti-reflexive
power directed at generating normalisation and the submission of subaltern strata. This is
achieved at first through naked violence and repression, as in the process of enclosure and
highland clearances (‘primitive capitalist accumulation’28) and then later through the development
of legal and political measures designed to compel a now displaced proletariat to conform to the
logic of capital through a process of real subsumption.29 As Marx puts it: ‘Subsumed under capital
the workers become components of these social formations, but these social formations do not
belong to them and so rise up against them as the forms of capital itself, as if they arose from it
and were integrated within it, in opposition to the isolated labour power of the workers’.30 Marx
adds that ‘culture’ for workers often means ‘a mere training to act as a machine’, and he was
opposed to the idea of instituting a new Master and wished to overcome, not accomplish, the
carving of the field.31 Thus Zizek’s image of capitalism as universalised reflexivity and choice is
in many ways the exact opposite of Marx’s image of it.
The gulf between Zizek’s understanding of capitalism and Marx’s understanding it is
further reinforced when we come to consider Zizek’s thinking on class and class struggle.
Regarding class Zizek thinks there is now no such thing as a ‘capitalist’ or a ‘capitalist class’.
Similarly, though he refers to ‘class struggle’ this is not meant in terms of the ‘struggle between
the classes’, however defined. Rather it is a synonym for the Lacanian Real or Laclau’s concept
of antagonism, which denies the contradictory character of class relations under capitalist
conditions. ‘Class struggle is that on account of which every direct reference to universality … is
always in a specific way “biased”, dislocated with regard to its literal meaning’. “Class struggle” is
the Marxist name for this basic “operator of dislocation” … [ensuring we] always-already “take
sides”.. It is not an “ultimate referent” and cannot be neutrally defined,32 but it nevertheless
operates as a determinant of other identities and struggles, so that the proliferation of multiple
subjectivities “is the result of class struggle”.33 Zizek’s concept of class struggle is therefore a
reference to an allegedly irreducible antagonism between people and as such is more Hobbesian
than Marxist in orientation.
In view of the above it should hardly be surprising to learn that when he does analyse class
under capitalism he does so by applying Lacanian categories to social analysis rather than Marxist
ones. Thus class structure is a social expression of the Lacanian triad of Symbolic, Imaginary and
Real. The ‘symbolic class’ consists of ‘managers and bankers … academics journalists, lawyers
and so on’ along with ‘all those who work in the virtual symbolic universe’. The social Real
consists of the excluded or underclass, such as the homeless and ethnic minorities, and this group
is the equivalent for Zizek of the working class in Marx. Finally there is the ‘middle class’,
including traditional types of worker as well as other established strata, which Zizek portrays as a
conservative bastion of tradition (the Imaginary), ‘passionately attached to traditional modes of
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production and ideology’.34 The claims Zizek makes for his analysis are similar to those Marx
makes in relation to his. That is, Zizek regards these classes as ‘agents’ engaged in class
antagonisms, ‘intricate interplay’ and ‘shifting strategic alliances’. Each group possesses its own
world view which it seeks to promote and realise.35 Despite the claims Zizek makes for his
account of class, he nevertheless rarely deploys the triad model for concrete political and
historical analysis, and indeed the class descriptors change from work to work. Sometimes, for
example, managers are considered members of the ‘ruling class’, at other times they are not.
Moreover Zizek’s use of class is inconsistent since on occasion he ignores the triad model
altogether in favour of stranger formulations – for instance that the whole of America is now
‘Capital’, whereas China is a ‘working class state’.36
A further peculiarity of Zizek’s ‘class analysis’ is the distinctive manner in which the
category of the ‘proletarian’ becomes a non-class, ascriptive category. ‘Proletarian’ in Zizek
denotes a political category of those who ‘identify with the social symptom’ and are thereby able
to accomplish an authentic Act, i.e. to break with the existing symbolic order.37 A proletarian is
someone ‘ready to risk everything since he [sic] is the pure subject deprived of roots’.38 For
Zizek the ‘mythical Marxian proletariat’ - which he claims to have derived from Marx’s work –
is to be regarded as distinct from any actual worker; ‘proletarian’ is an ascriptive term, whereas
‘working class’ is descriptive.39 Ascription we should note is a function of Zizek’s ethics of the
Act, and therefore cannot be equated merely with the process of identification with the
oppressed. Moreover, Marx’s claim that ‘all history is the history of class struggle’ is, according
to Zizek, itself nothing more than a Decision, i.e. an openly arbitrary assertion of an otherwise
unfounded belief.40
Zizek sees the emergence of social subordination as a result of purely psychological
processes. Dominant groups are a product of subordinate ones, and their power is not rooted in
anything concrete, only on their occupation of a particular psycho-structural position. For Zizek
class domination is thus the outgrowth of submissive psychologies rather than the other way
around.41 External obstacles are merely a fragment of reality on which ‘we “project” or
“externalise” an intrinsic immanent impossibility’; they are, as Hegel puts it, the ‘reflexive
determination’ of submissive attitudes.42 The ‘ruling class’ is thus nothing but an outgrowth of a
psychological need to imagine an ‘Other’ stealing one’s pleasure. As Zizek comments, ‘the Lord
is ultimately an invention of the Bondsman’ and capitalists are thus bogeymen we invent for
ourselves to satisfy our need for a constitutive antagonism.44
How, it might be wondered, does this relate to Marx’s theory of class? The answer is
hardly at all. Firstly, Marx’s approach to class is, by contrast with Zizek, unconstrained by the
need to impose a rigid framework, triadic, bi-polar or otherwise, on class analysis. As Bertell
Ollman notes in his detailed study of the subject, the plethora of class categories and distinctions
to be found in Marx’s work indicates how class analysis is subordinate to his method and overall
approach which in turn is rooted in the study of history. Thus the meaning and content of terms
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such as ‘proletarian’, ‘capitalist’, ‘peasant’ and ‘petty-bourgeoisie’ differ according to the society
under review, its relative development and so forth.45 ‘Class’ is not in this sense an abstraction t o
be imposed upon social analysis, as it is for Zizek. The description of classes is rather determined
by social analysis, and remains fruitful to the degree that it illuminates the particular concrete
struggles experienced under given social conditions.46 Marx does not, that is, simply assert class
relations, but deduces them from social relations or particular historical events. Thus in
nineteenth century France classes are ‘developed’ and ‘conscious’. In America, on the other
hand classes ‘exist’; they are not ‘fixed’, and thus ‘continually change and interchange’.47
Secondly, the notion that class struggle could for Marx be reduced to a Decision, a
collective projection of a fundamental antagonism would be to ignore virtually everything Marx
writes on the subject. Looking directly (for example) at the quote regarding Lord and Bondsman
taken from the Manifesto we read that the latter (amongst other class oppositions) ‘stood in
constant opposition to one other, carried on an uninterrupted, now hidden, now open fight’.48
Moreover, as Marx adds, in earlier epochs of history ‘we find almost everywhere a complicated
arrangement of society into various orders, a manifold gradation of social rank. In ancient Rome
we have patricians, knights, plebeians, slaves; in the Middle Ages, feudal lords, vassals, guildmasters,
journeymen, apprentices, serfs; in almost all these classes, again, subordinate
gradations’.49 Thus simple oppositional binaries and dichotomies are rejected in favour of an
analytical approach that rejects strong determinism and individual Acts/Decisions in favour of
contextual analysis.50 ‘Class struggle’ is not an abstract element causing dislocation, but a
descriptive term for conflict between different groups. As such there is no reason why it should
express something which is universally true or primordial, and of course it would make a nonsense
of Marx’s account of the transition to socialism/communism to assume that it did.
Thirdly, Zizek will find no support in Marx for the idea of an eternal Master/Slave
dialectic in which the psychological need for repression and antagonism provide the basis for class
relations. Rather violence emerges repeatedly in Marx’s work as the product of the exercise of
ruling-class power whether that be exercised in the process of enclosing the land (Capital, vol. 1),
in the process of putting down working class revolt (as in Surveys from Exile and other works)51
or any of the other myriad occasions when Marx describes the law of the ‘truncheon’. Capitalist
power does not emerge from the psychological submissiveness of workers in this account; it is
established through a violent process of physical repression which produces a condition of real
sublation, a subordination built into the physical structure of the world and backed by repression
and naked force.
Finally, as regards Zizek’s distinction between an ascriptive ‘proletarian’ and a descriptive
‘working class’ one will search in vain for textual support in Marx. On the contrary, throughout
his work Marx uses the terms interchangeably, most famously in the juxtaposed slogans of the
Manifesto: ‘The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains’ and ‘WORKING MEN OF
ALL COUNTRIES UNITE’52. In the Manifesto the ascriptive term is not ‘proletarian’, but rather
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‘communist’, i.e. those who are politically and theoretically in advance of ‘the great mass of
proletarians’, though of course it is the latter and not the former whom Marx describes as
conquering power.53 In contrast to Zizek’s approach, for Marx it is the empirical working class
which should and will become the agent of social change. The separation of politically
revolutionary forces from actually existing workers, so central to Zizek’s model, is anathema t o
Marx himself.
Changing It: Revolution and After
Part of the reason why Zizek seems such an invigorating presence in contemporary debates is his
apparent radicalism when set alongside his intellectual sparring partners. Zizek not only promises
a return to Marx, but a return to ‘revolutionary’ politics. Zizek’s ‘materialism’ is it seems a key
aspect of his approach, promising a return to the study of concrete social forces and an analysis
of the strengths and weaknesses of capital as a basis for understanding the potential for political
mobilisation and transformation. We have already had cause to query Zizek’s commitment t o
anything resembling a Marxian form of materialism in our discussion of commodity fetishism, but
it is worth teasing out further what Zizek’s claims in this respect are, for his ‘materialism’ would
seem not merely different to Marx’s, but in direct confrontation with it.
Zizek accepts Marx’s insistence that, whereas philosophers have only interpreted the
world, the point is to change it, but in Zizek’s version this is taken to mean its opposite, namely,
that changing interpretations directly changes the world.54 For Zizek materiality refers t o
ideological apparatuses and the Unconscious,55 and ‘every materialist’ thinks that subjective
experience is regulated by ‘objective unconscious mechanisms’.56 The Unconscious is primarily
‘an ideological perception of how the subject should relate to objects, which is displayed in such
objects’57, and ideology (aka ‘fantasy’) occurs ‘when people know very well how things are, but
still they are doing it as if they did not know’.58 ‘Materialism’ for Zizek thus involves a belief
that experience is under the control of extra-human symbolic mechanisms and ideological habits
that exist only to reproduce themselves and which effectively run the show, with human beings
arising merely as an illusory cover for them. 59 We are actually under the control of an ‘opaque
network’ of symbols and fantasies.60 Thus whatever ‘materialism’ means for Zizek – and its
meaning shifts from work to work suggesting that it is little more than a hurrah word – it
certainly does not refer to a belief in an external reality which can be studied, understood and
transformed.61 It does not even mean the truth in an empirical sense, since for Zizek the
authentic ethical position has to do with exposing ‘our’ complicity in events rather than telling
the empirical truth about them.62 ‘Truth’ is in fact in opposition to mere objective knowledge on
this account, so materiality cannot be accessible to ‘knowledge’.63 Truth is a ‘stain within the
ideal sphere of psychic life which is material – indeed the heart of true materiality’.64 Those who
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believe in external reality are thus implicit idealists, since such a position requires us to be able t o
achieve absolute self-identity or transparency.65 Given the necessary non-identity of language
and the Real, signifier and signified, in Zizek’s ‘materialism’ such a move is ruled out. Thus Hegel
and Schelling become the true ‘materialists’66 and ‘Marx’ is deployed largely as a secondary figure
to prop up the equation of psychic life with ‘the world’, the exact inversion of the account of the
relationship between being and consciousness found in The German Ideology, The Preface to a
Critique of Political Economy and elsewhere.
The character of this ‘substitution’ of idealism and materialism is not, we can note,
merely philosophical, but also political. What it allows Zizek to infer is, in the style of Stalin and
Althusser, a kind of consciousness-without-consciousness which confers objective meaning on
people’s actions and statements, a meaning which is separate from their intent. This means that
Zizek can make arrogant claims to know people’s objective motives even when he admits that
his claims bear no resemblance to their subjective intent.67 Thus the ‘Marxist’ critique of
commodity fetishism becomes a critique, not of how objects appear to the subject, but of the
capacity of subjects to articulate what they take the meaning of an object to be. This is because
for Zizek ‘materiality’ refers to an external symbolic system over which it is impossible t o
exercise control.
Whatever else Marx’s ‘materialism’ might be it is certainly nothing to do with the
dominance of an external symbolic system. Indeed the notion that it is, cherished by Zizek,
makes a nonsense of the thrust of Marx’s critique of German idealism, which might, in turn, have
been written as a riposte to Zizek himself.68 Over and again Marx stresses that language and ideas
do not have an existence independent of ‘material practice’.69 Marx does not regard language as a
determining system in which the idea of the subject is a misrecognition. Instead, he famously
asserts that people can ‘make their own history’ through actions which transcend this existing
language and which indeed create a new one.70 Language, or the ‘external symbolic universe’ is
not a limitation to action in this sense. Far from it: language as a social practice is clearly subject
to social and historical transformation. When Marx in the 1844 Manuscripts criticises Hegel for
an ‘uncritical positivism and … equally uncritical idealism’ he is being critical of the
understanding of language Zizek attributes to Marx’s ‘materialism’: the stress on the autonomy
of the consciousness over being, of thought over action, of the world of the philosophers over
that of ‘sensuous human activity’.71
Thus Zizek’s ‘materialism’ would appear to have little do with that of Marx. The
impression is reinforced when we consider the means which Zizek describes for breaking through
the ‘existing symbolic structure’ which - it follows - is the necessary prelude to systemic or social
‘transformation’. Thus by contrast to Marx’s materialism, which stresses the idea of
transformation as a process through which we make our own history through new languages and
the remodelling of social practice, Zizek’s ‘materialism’ introduces the notion of an Act which
(temporarily) transcends the existing symbolic structure through an ex nihilo break. Zizek’s
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notion of the Act is thus de-radicalised by the structural necessity, inherited from Lacan of the
survival/restoration of the existing deep structure of society. An Act is, we read, based on a
complete break with all prior standards and ethics,72 and must by definition be unconnected to any
particular programme of change or positive conception of an alternative to be realised.73 The
one who Acts opts for ‘Nothingness’, not social transformation. Following an Act, the social
system can be changed, but its deep structure remains unaltered; an Act is thus necessarily
‘betrayed’, producing a new ‘proper symbolic Prohibition’.74 Zizek is insistent that any form of
activity which falls short of these criteria is intrinsically supportive of the system, thereby ruling
out all forms of everyday resistance, rebelliousness or protest which might be regarded as
prefiguring a challenge to the status quo75. Thus 1968 is a ‘hysterical shirking of the Act’; the
sub-altern carnival is a ‘false transgression which stabilises the power edifice’, and everyday
resistances to institutionalised or systemic hierarchy or subordination simply sustain the
dominance of those institutions and systems.76
As regards a programme for social change, Zizek is opposed to the pursuit of freedom,
rights, socialism or anything else of the kind. Concern for such matters is instead regarded as a
barrier to achieving an authentic Act which, it must be recalled, ‘suspends’ existing standards.77
Zizek is thus offering not a leftist ethic, but a ‘leftist suspension of the ethical’ in the name of
the ‘true Universality’ to come.78 This is a Universality that can be ‘glimpsed’, but which in turn
must necessarily be betrayed. For Zizek a leftist is thus anyone who takes a ‘militant, divisive
position’, regardless of their specific politics – a position which, curiously, renders de Gaulle and
St Paul ‘leftists’.79 He calls for a militarist logic similar to that of the Army to create a sense of
in-group solidarity.80 This logic annihilates others and is also necessarily self-destructive
involving as it does ‘crushing’ the individual to produce a New Man.81 It is also destructive of
groups and classes, as for example, when he misinterprets Marx’s (empirical) claim that the
bourgeoisie is doomed to disappear as a call for the mass slaughter of the bourgeoisie.82 What
should also be emphasised here is that this militant divisiveness is regarded by Zizek as an end in
itself since, unlike Marx, he does not believe that the contradictions and antagonisms of capitalist
society are in fact able to be overcome. Indeed, he is ready to criticise Marx’s ‘impossible
fantasy’ of a world without ‘obstacles’ and antagonisms’ on the grounds that capitalism’s
antagonistic logic is necessary for its thrust to productivity,83 reiterating the nihilism of his
account of the Act and his essentially conservative stance vis-à-vis capitalism more generally.
But as for the rest, Zizek’s claim is that if not actually Marxist then his position represents a
‘development’ from Marx. The claim is absurd.
Firstly, the image of an Act as a total break constituted ex nihilo with no preconceived
alternative and a stress on divisiveness for its own sake bears no relation at all at all to Marx’s
account of revolution. Marx never implies, for example, that revolution is a leap into
Nothingness. Revolution is characterised rather as the effort of a movement to realise a new
agenda which may only be incipient, but is nonetheless characterised as positive.84 The Paris
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Commune, to take but one example, was the ‘positive’ form of the demand for a ‘social republic’
superseding class rule.85 It was not the violence and excess of the Commune that impressed Marx,
but rather the facility of the Communards to elaborate procedures and practices that prefigured
the better world to come. We can further note that Marx was highly critical of Mikhail Bakunin
for analogous reasons, i.e. that he was prone to revel in revolutionary excess and the glorification
of violence as an instrument of social transformation. More generally the idea that revolution is
of necessity destructive and violent was regarded by Marx as part of the propaganda the
bourgeoisie used to discredit revolutionary movements.86 Zizek’s Act has more in common with
opponent’s accusations against communism than with Marx and Engels’s defence of it.
Secondly, as regards the notion of revolution as involving symbolic destitution enabling
onself to be destroyed and reshaped anew, there is nothing in Marx to suggest this is either
necessary or desirable to advance a revolutionary cause. Although Marx does talk in terms of a
change in the ‘consciousness’ of workers, the relationship of the revolutionary proletariat to its
non-revolutionary predecessors involves an elaboration, not an abolition of its existing social and
existential position.87 Marx states explicitly in this regard that the ideas of the communists are
not ‘inventions’ or ‘discoveries’ to be imposed from without on a reluctant working class, ‘but
merely express in general terms actual relations springing from an existing class struggle’ and
from an ‘existing historical movement’.88 Moreover the forms of association and companionship
shared by communist workers is an expression of ‘the brotherhood of man’, of the best attributes
of human sociality.89 Communism is thus regarded as the generalisation of already existing forms
of companionship and interaction to the whole of society, not some sort of self-debasement or
self-abnegation as described by Zizek.
Thirdly, as regards post-revolutionary society Marx was, as Zizek implies, hostile t o
‘utopians’ who attempted to draw up abstracted blueprints for social change or who indeed
attempted to set up communes and social experiments in advance of the conquest of political
power.90 He was not averse, however, to making proposals of a specific kind in anticipation of
the conquest of power. The Manifesto includes a detailed ten point transitional programme,91 and
in the later Critique of the Gotha Programme Marx is quite explicit about what a properly
emancipatory politics entails. Indeed Marx’s approach in these and other works is the opposite
of Zizek. Whereas the latter criticises opponents for having specific demands, Marx attacks the
Gotha Programme for the insufficient precision with such demands are presented. For instance:
‘Prohibition of child labour! It was absolutely essential to give an age-limit here’.92 Nor does
Marx imply that there is some deep structure which requires the betrayal of the revolution.
Sometimes his account of the primacy of economic conditions acts as a limit on the demands
Marx is prepared to support, but even these, such as the alienating character of machines, can, in
his view, be overcome in a socialist society. We might add that unlike Zizek Marx does not regard
alienation as ineliminable or primordial, seeing it instead as the product of contingent social
relations the abolition of which would result in its overcoming.93
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Thinking, fourthly, about the formal characteristics of revolutionary action, Marx is
never dismissive (as Zizek is) of resistance no matter how ‘petty’ or poorly coordinated. Marx,
that is, does not prejudge the adequacy or effectiveness of political action from the standpoint of
an abstract model of praxis (the Act) which is then used to dismiss or endorse the efforts of those
resisting. Thus ‘the Communists do not set up sectarian principles of their own, by which t o
shape and mould the proletarian movement’.94 This means that they are prepared to act in
whatever way to advance the interests of the working class and any other social forces who are
acting in a revolutionary way.95 Even Utopians, about whom Marx can be dismissive, offer
something more than a mere ‘supplement’ of capitalism. Indeed, as he notes in the Manifesto,
utopias are ‘full of the most valuable materials for the enlightenment of the working class’.96 For
Marx, therefore, resistances that stop short of revolution, and even that that are purely
‘phantasmic’ are, although inadequate, a step forward which should be supported by all means.
What finally of the ‘leftist suspension of the ethical’? It is true that both Trotsky and
Lenin for example write in terms that suggest that it is not inconsistent to call for a suspension
of ethical principles during a period of civil war; though neither were able to call on Marx in
support of the contention that literally anything goes during a period of revolutionary
confrontation. But unlike Zizek their call for a suspension of ethics was clearly one made on the
basis of the particular context confronting the Bolshevik regime. Neither advocated such a
suspension as a necessary or desirable aspect of revolutionary transformation as Zizek does, and
for good reason. Marx gives no support to the notion that ethical and moral principles are to be
jettisoned in the process of overcoming bourgeois rule. On the contrary, he regards such
manoeuvres as characteristic of bourgeois ‘fanaticism’ when confronted with challenges to its
own power;97 the carving of the field is for Marx not a goal but a fact, for which the bourgeoisie
is to blame.98 The purpose of revolutionary transformation is not then to suspend the ethical but
rather to place it on a new footing and in particular to give actuality to the mere ‘promise’ of
bourgeois ethics to nurture and promote the development of freedom.
Zizek’s ‘Economic Essentialism’
As regards the character of a post-revolutionary society it seems clear that we should take Zizek
at his word when he proposes to say nothing about what society should look like after a
‘transformation’. Yet his claim to be offering a development of Marx compels us to dig a little
deeper in the search for something that might sustain the notion that what he is offering is indeed
some sort of critique of capitalism. In this vein what is clear is that part of Zizek’s ‘materialism’
is the attachment to the idea of the primacy of economics, if not to ‘economic essentialism’,99
which as it stands invokes some link to Marx. Zizek rails, for example, against the tendency in
contemporary capitalism to disguise or paper over the productive process, destroying as he puts it
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the ‘unique utopian moment’ in which ‘material labour’ becomes ‘the site which can generate an
authentic sense of community and solidarity’.100 Production is thus of psychological value, and
the ‘foreclosure of production proper’ has disastrous effects since it becomes reduced to a
political value.101 Zizek’s ‘economic essentialism’ thus involves positing subordination within a
work situation as an ethical good. For Zizek, ‘private problems ... [a]re put in their proper
perspective by discussion in the workplace’, and work is a source of individual satisfaction.102 His
vision of utopia is a factory which cuts off workers from the ‘background noise’ of their
environment and culture, turning workers into robots whose only utopia is the factory itself.103 I t
is also (we might note) this economic essentialism which expresses itself in quasi-empirical claims
particularly concerning the impending catastrophe so popular with crude or deterministic
Marxisms. Thus, in a rare excursion into ‘materialist’ analysis, he announces that a final crisis of
capitalism is necessary, ‘a moment of explosion, probably caused by some kind of economic crisis
or whatever, a moment we must prepare ourselves for’.104 Note that the crisis is not caused by or
even related to the actions of popular movements, but something we wait passively to happen
around us.
And what of ‘socialisation’ the need for which emerges in recent work as a key aspect of
Zizek’s response to the extension of capital into every niche of existence? Here his thinking
goes well beyond the ‘means of production’ in the sense in which Marx uses the term. For
instance he is in favour of socialising gene and seed patenting, commodified scientific knowledge
and information monopolies, and strict state control of agriculture.105 Similarly, on the issue of
Big Brother controls via the internet and CCTV, Zizek’s solution does not involve reducing or
abolishing control, but extending it into cyberspace.106 Thus, Zizek’s socialisation involves the
imposition of an ever more total web of compulsory subordination. Further, since Zizek uses
‘state control’ interchangeably with ‘socialisation’ it is logical to assume that this is what he
actually means by socialisation. 107 In such a context calls for control by ‘the entire collective of
the people affected’ can only be viewed as a new form of Stalinist substitutionism, or at best a
demand for panoptical control to be collectively shared. 108 This model of socialisation is entirely
consistent with Zizek’s view that selfhood is misrecognition and his demand for subordination t o
the opaque network of the symbolic order.
Does Zizek’s ‘economic essentialism’ have anything to with Marx? We would argue not.
Even if it is accepted that Marx was an ‘economic essentialist’, it is clear that the importance of
production and work for Marx is practical, not ethical. For Marx so much is influenced, if not
determined, by the need of individuals and societies to reproduce themselves that a failure t o
attend to the form production takes in any given setting is to ignore a crucial determinant in the
composition of the social. The role of production is thus explanatory, not ethical.109 It helps us
to explain why society, law, ideology, class struggle has the form it does. Thus where Marx does
discuss the form communism will take (1844 Manuscripts, Grundrisse etc.),110 what is striking is
the degree to which production is treated as a means for other ends rather than an end in itself,
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and thus the degree to which production fails to figure as a value in itself in Marx’s thinking about
emancipation. One searches in vain in Marx for eulogies to factory production or the ‘utopia’ of
communal production. Nor is this expectation limited to the earlier, more humanistic works. To
paraphrase Capital vol. III, ‘the realm of freedom’ begins where ‘the realm of necessity ends’,
hence the necessity for further automation and the harnessing of technological innovation to the
productive process. As would seem to be clear, the full and many sided development of the
individual requires the progressive elimination of work as ‘socially necessary labour’. ‘Hard work’
and industrial production as a good in itself is a Stalinist not a Marxist invention.
Zizek seems closer to Marx in thinking in terms of the centrality of technology to social
change and indeed of the importance of economic factors in sparking crisis. However, his
conclusions are exaggerations of Marx’s position. Of course Marx claims that there is a
correspondence between developments in the economic base and developments at the level of the
superstructure; but if politics and contingently situated action did not matter at all then
presumably Marx would have been able to ignore it and concentrate on the analysis of the
former. That he was utterly preoccupied with politics demonstrates the importance selfconsciously
directed political action in the struggle to overcome capitalism. The situation
regarding the character and form of crisis is more ambiguous. For example before 1850 Marx
thought in terms of a ‘permanent revolution’ and thus in terms of the primacy of political over
economic factors. After 1850, however, he apparently believed that crisis was both a necessary
condition and direct determinant of revolution; though this position changed again, as for
example in the Grundrisse.111 Thus Zizek’s position expresses a trend in Marx’s thought, but by
no means a typical one; further Marx’s views should be seen in the light of the centrality of
economics in his work, an emphasis lacking in Zizek’s work.
Finally, Zizek’s calls for ‘socialisation’ have an undeniably Marxist ring to them,
particularly given the rarity of the expression within the left radical tradition (‘worker selfmanagement’;
‘collective ownership’; ‘nationalisation’ are much more common formulae). The
problem is less the demand itself, than what Zizek takes the demand to imply and what it is that
should be subject to such a call. As we mentioned above, Zizek appears to equate socialisation
with the extension of state control, whereas Marx looks forward to the abolition of the state
altogether and its replacement with ‘associated’ (i.e. communal) production.112 That Zizek sees
the task of socialisation to involve the extension of state control over, inter alia, CCTV, gene
and seed patenting and commodified science illustrates the gulf between his vision and that of
Marx. The process of socialisation as the latter sees it occurs in the economic, not the
ideological sphere. It involves ‘the transformation of capitalist private property, which in fact
already rests on the carrying on of production by society, into social property’.113 The purpose
of such an expropriation is not greater subordination, but the liberation of real individuals from
the alienating force of capitalism.114 Marxian socialisation is not a general compulsion, but a
specific measure against capitalist forms of expropriation and in particular against wage labour.
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This expropriation is not directed against property in general, only against its historicallyspecific
capitalist form; it is in Marx’s own terms to ‘make individual property a truth’.115
Further, socialisation in Marx involves the masses of the workers directly taking over capitalistrun
spheres.116 Though Marx also refers on occasion to state control, this is on the assumption
that the revolutionary process will have extensively democratised the state.117
There is therefore little in common between Zizek and Marx. Their critiques of
commodity fetishism are diametrically opposed. The ‘capitalism’ they define as their mutual
enemy is a wholly different phenomenon in each case. Their ‘materialisms’ are two very
different philosophies; their conceptions of revolution are almost entirely incompatible; their
accounts of ‘class’ and ‘class struggle’ are at odds with each other; and their alternatives to the
present differ wildly. As is clear therefore, the connection between Zizek and Marx is tenuous t o
say the least. What remains to be asked, however, is whether Zizek’s ‘Marx’ is more compelling
that the Marx whom we have juxtaposed alongside it. To put the matter, more concretely, the
question is now Zizek or Marx?
Marx after Zizek
As we have made clear, we think Zizek’s critique of capitalism has little to do with that of Marx.
We would further argue that is not compelling considered on its own terms and that the paucity
of his account undermines his position more generally. Firstly, if capitalism were really the way
Zizek portrays it – a reflexive, democratic, non-normalising, inclusive, peaceful, leisure-inducing
system open to criticism only for its ‘permissiveness’, the boredom it induces, the lack of
conflict it sustains – there would little reason to get rid of it. Indeed, it would so much
approximate the norms associated with democratic socialism that it would almost entirely
counterproductive for left radicals to oppose it. We would argue, however, that Zizek’s
description is flawed. Democratic rights across the liberal-capitalist world are as we write under
attack from ‘anti-terrorist’ and ‘public order’ laws; tolerance of ethnic and sexual difference only
extends to spaces the police have not yet reached; normalising pressures and repression are not
declining, but rather are intensifying through a wave of ‘New Deal’ and ‘welfare to work’
packages and insistence on the accumulation of ‘transferable skills’, ‘flexibility’ and
‘employability’. All are designed to prepare individuals for life as exploitable wage labourers not
citizens of a democratic, reflexive community. Far from ‘reflexivity’, contemporary capitalism
is marked by the resilience of dogma and prejudice at both elite and popular levels of discourse.
The former are unreflexively adulatory about capitalism, wealth, and personal power; the latter is
still awash with old-fashioned prejudices fuelled by a ‘popular’ press peddling the usual idiotic
observations on feckless mothers, spongers, queers and asylum seekers that have been doing the
rounds since the birth of popular literacy.
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Zizek’s model of class is empirically unfounded and methodologically and taxonomically
flawed. Many of the sub-groups he lists (lawyers, ethnic minorities, the homeless etc.) are not
even comparable, and many people fall into more than one of his ‘irreducibily antagonistic
classes (e.g. black lawyers). Other categories collapse internally and all fail to meet Zizek’s
sweeping claims about their ideologico-political alignments. For instance, journalists of tabloid
newspapers belong to the symbolic class, but proffer views he associates with the ‘middle class’.
Much of the metaphysics of Zizek’s account – for example his idea of class struggle as an abstract
force of dislocation – has to be taken on faith or not at all. Further, Zizek’s positing of an
abstract psychological need for exclusion and conflict is a barrier to progressive social change and
should be rejected. Ultimately his account of the genesis of class in psychology runs aground on
the problem of ‘truncheons’. For this reason his ‘politics’ are impossible in the mundane as well
as in the technical Lacanian sense. The examples of Acts he gives, invariably taken from film,
literature or elite politics demonstrate on their own terms the impossibility and undesirability of
his account of ‘revolution’. In addition his politics remains obdurately substitutionist resting as it
does on the distinction between ‘what one thinks’ and ‘how things really seem to one as shown
by one’s actions’. This falls into the same category of elitist imputation as Mao’s crude principle
of ‘the unity of motive and effect’118, and should be opposed by anyone who takes seriously
Marx’s account of the self-emancipation of ordinary women and men.
Finally, Zizek’s attempt to rehabilitate the ethical importance of work and production is
simply implausible. What capitalists hide by concealing sweatshops is not work as a site of human
solidarity, but the suffering inflicted by a brutal regime of exploitation. Much work under
capitalist conditions is an alienated routine of tedious misery imposed by coercion and standing as
a barrier to a humane existence. Radical groups today have far more to learn from the
autonomist ‘refusal of work’ than from Zizek’s ill-founded glorification of it. They also have far
more to learn from Marx than they have from Zizek. This is not to say, as we mentioned at the
outset, that Marx’s work should be regarded as immune from refinement, development and
criticism. Clearly there is much to be admired in Marx’s work; but there is also much that needs
further elaboration and reflection. The point is that radicals need to undertake this work in the
same spirit as it was offered: not as a portmanteau cloak that one dons or throws off as it suits
the occasion, but as a body of work from which new insights and analyses can be developed
enabling radicals to see through and oppose the oppressive discourses that characterise
contemporary global capitalism.
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1. Zizek 1997a, p. 99.
2. Zizek in Butler, Laclau and Zizek 2000, p. 105.
3. Zizek in Butler, Laclau and Zizek 2000, pp. 108-9.
4. Zizek 2000a, pp. 83-4.
5. Zizek 1997, p. 101.
6. Zizek 1997, pp. 100-1.
7. Zizek 1997, p. 103.
8. Zizek 1997, p. 72.
9. Zizek 1997, pp.104-5.
10. Zizek 1997, p.106.
11. Zizek 1997, pp. 101, 149.
12. Marx and Engels 1976, p. 951.
13. Marx and Engels 1976, pp. 164, 167, 954.
14. Marx and Engels 1976, pp. 138-9, 167, 188; Marx 1959, p. 70.
15. Zizek 1997, p.79; Zizek 1999, pp. 218-19; Zizek 2000a, pp.15-16.
16. Zizek 2000a, pp. 18-19.
17. Zizek 1999, pp. 276, 351.
18. Zizek 2001a, p. 33; Zizek 2000a, p. 9; Zizek 1999, pp. 368-9; Zizek 2000b, p.141.
19. Zizek 2001b, pp. 18-20.
20. Zizek and Salecl 1996, pp. 41-2.
21. Zizek 2001b, pp. 16-17; Zizek in Butler, Laclau and Zizek 2000, p. 319. Zizek’s use of the
concept of ‘deterritorialisation’, derived from the work of Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, is
extremely selective, since, for Deleuze and Guattari, capitalism is marked by simultaneous
tendencies to deterritorialise and also to reterretorialise through authoritarianism and state
22. Zizek claims that repression no longer exists. Zizek 2001a, p. 33.
23. Zizek 1999, pp. 338, 342-3; Zizek 2000b, pp. 237-8; Zizek 2001b, pp. 1, 8-9.
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24. Zizek 2000a, p. 122; Zizek 1999, p. 346.
25. Marx and Engels 1976, pp. 268, 280.
26. Furthermore, Marx suggests that workers in capitalist society do not feel free and reflexive.
Marx and Engels 1976, p. 1025; McLellan (ed.) 1971, p. 153.
27. McLellan (ed.) 1971, p. 153.
28. Marx and Engels 1976, p. 881.
29. Marx and Engels 1976, p. 1024.
30. Marx and Engels 1976, p. 1055.
31. Marx and Engels 1996, pp. 23, 29; Marx 1974, p. 150.
32. Zizek 1997, p. 216.
33. Zizek 1997, p. 216; Zizek in Butler, Laclau and Zizek 2000, p. 320.
34. Zizek in Butler, Laclau and Zizek 2000, pp. 322-3.
35. Zizek in Butler, Laclau and Zizek 2000, p. 323.
36. Zizek 2000b, p. 134.
37. Zizek 2001b, p. 5.
38. Zizek 2000b, p. 140.
39. Zizek 1999, pp. 141, 173.
40. Zizek 1999, p. 141.
41. Zizek 2001a, p. 16.
42. Zizek in Laclau 1990, p. 252; cf. Zizek 1999, p. 240.
43. Zizek 2001a, p. 16.
44. Zizek in Laclau 1990, pp. 252-3.
45. Ollman 1979, pp. 33-7, 43-4.
46. See for example Marx 1934, pp. 21-2.
47. Marx 1934, p. 19.
48. Marx and Engels 1998, p. 3; cf. Marx 1934, p. 6.
49. Marx and Engels 1996, pp. 3-4.
50. Marx 1934, p. 6.
51. Marx and Engels 1976, p. 891; Marx 1934, pp. 17-18; Marx 1973, p. 296.
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52. Marx and Engels 1996, p.55; cf. Marx and Engels 1976, pp. 1061-2; Marx 1974, p. 219.
53. Marx and Engels 1996, pp. 23-4.
54. Zizek 1997, pp. 90-1.
55. Zizek 1997, p.3; Zizek in Butler, Laclau and Zizek 2000, p. 312.
56. Zizek 2000a, p. 84.
57. Zizek 1997, pp. 1-3.
58. Zizek 1989, p.32.
59. Zizek 1997, pp. 77, 120-1; Zizek 1989, p. 36; Zizek in Butler, Laclau and Zizek 2000, p.
60. Zizek 1997, p. 9.
61. Zizek 2001b, p. 3.
62. Zizek 1997, p. 215.
63. Zizek 2000a, p. 137.
64. Zizek in Butler, Laclau and Zizek 2000, p. 118.
65. Zizek 2001b, p. 3.
66. Zizek 2000a, p. 71.
67. Zizek 1997, p. 6; Zizek 2000a, pp. 84-5.
68. See especially Marx and Engels 1974, p. 64.
69. Marx and Engels 1974, p. 122; Marx cited in Eagleton 1997, pp. 14-15.
70. See especially Marx 1934, pp. 10-11, where Marx specifically compares the possibility of
social change with the possibility of changing one’s language.
71. Marx 1959, pp. 130-1.
72. Zizek 1999, p. 388.
73. Zizek 2000a, p. 166-7; Zizek in Butler, Laclau and Zizek 2000, p. 131.
74. Zizek 1999, p. 368.
75. Zizek 1999, p. 264; Zizek 2000a, p. 147; Zizek 1997, pp. 20, 83.
76. Zizek 1999, pp. 244, 247; Zizek 1997, pp. 20, 73; Zizek 2000a, pp. 148-9.
77. Zizek in Butler, Laclau and Zizek 2000, p. 326; Zizek 2001a, pp. 113-15.
78. Zizek 1999, pp. 222-3.
79. Zizek 1999, pp. 226-7.
?? 20
80. Zizek 1999, p. 220; Zizek 2000a, p. 124.
81. Zizek in Butler, Laclau and Zizek 2000, p. 131.
82. Zizek 1999, p. 192.
83. Zizek 2001a, pp. 18-19.
84. Marx and Engels 1996, p. 24.
85. Marx 1948, p. 53.
86. Marx 1934, p. 19; cf. Marx and Engels 1996, pp. 24-34.
87. Marx and Engels 1996, p. 24.
88. Marx and Engels 1996, p. 24.
89. Marx cited in Eagleton 1997, pp. 18-19.
90. Marx and Engels 1996, pp. 50-1.
91. Marx and Engels 1996, pp. 35-6.
92. Marx 1974, p. 358.
93. Marx and Engels 1974, pp. 54-5; McLellan (ed.) 1995, p. 128; McLellan (ed.) 1971, p. 139.
94. Marx and Engels 1996, p. 23.
95. Marx and Engels 1996, pp. 53-4.
96. Marx and Engels 1996, p. 50.
97. Marx 1934, p. 24; Marx 1948, p. 32.
98. Marx 1948, p. 78.
99. Zizek openly embraces this term. Zizek 2000b, pp. 132-3; Zizek 2000a, pp. 39-40.
100. Zizek 2000b, p. 135.
101. Zizek 2000b, p. 139.
102. Zizek 2000b, pp. 132-3.
103. Zizek 2001b, p. 19.
104. Zizek and Salecl 1996, p. 44.
105. Zizek 2001b, p. 23; Zizek 1999, pp. 356-7.
106. Zizek 2000b, p. 256.
107. Zizek 2001b, p. 107.
108. Zizek 1999, p. 351.
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109. eg McLellan (ed.) 1995, pp. 126-7, 129.
110. Marx 1959, pp. 130-1; McLellan (ed.) 1971, p. 174.
111. McLellan (ed.) 1995, p. 226.
112. Marx 1974, p. 354.
113. Marx and Engels 1976, pp. 929-30.
114. McLellan (ed.) 1995, pp. 243-4.
115. Marx 1948, p. 57; Marx and Engels 1996, pp. 27-9.
116. McLellan (ed.) 1971, p. 167.
117. Marx and Engels 1996, p. 35; Marx 1948, pp. 53-4, 58.
118. Mao Tse-Tung [Zedong] 1975, pp. 118-19.
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Sense. Interviews with Intellectuals, London:Routledge.
Zizek, Slavoj 1997, The Plague of Fantasies, London:Verso.
Zizek, Slavoj 1999, The Ticklish Subject, London:Verso.
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Universality, London:Verso.
Zizek, Slavoj 2000a, The Fragile Absolute, London:Verso.
Zizek, Slavoj 2000b, Did Somebody Say Totalitarianism?, London:Verso.
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Zizek, Slavoj 2000c, “Why we all love to hate Haider”, New Left Review 2, March-April 2000,
pp. 37-45.
Zizek, Slavoj 2001a, On Belief, London:Routledge.
Zizek, Slavoj 2001b, “Repeating Lenin”, at
Andrew Robinson and Simon Tormey work at the University of Nottingham.


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