, , ,

Zizek makes a great point in his new book when discussing the false binary in contemporary politics between permissive liberalism and fascistic populism: those who have oft-suggested an alliance of revolutionary politics in the West with more-or-less populist uprisings in the Middle East and Third World have completely missed the point of true revolutionary action. Such a position, Zizek claims, is commensurate with correlating the current uprisings against capitalists with Hitler’s own national socialism (since, as we all know, the Nazi’s really meant ‘capitalists’ when they said ‘Jews’). As Zizek states:

“It would be a fatal mistake to think that, at some point in the future, we will convince the fascists that their “real” enemy is capital, and that they should drop their particular religious/ethnic/racist form of their ideology in order to join forces with egalitarian universalism.” (Zizek, First as Tragedy, Then as Farce, 70)

I can’t help but think that this same principle applies in the theological realm as regards the new traditionalisms (MacIntyre, Milbank, etc.). Any and all reactionary positions, whether in politics or theology, are bound to be determined by that to which they are antithetical. Or, as Zizek has explained elsewhere, the first popular reaction to catastrophe (whether economic, ecological, or otherwise) is never one of universal solidarity, but of out of control populist violence. We must resist this type of blatant antagonism in theology as much as in politics. Instead, Zizek proposes fidelity to an event whose coordinates, a la Badiou, are not fixed according to the given situation. For Zizek, this means a radical “starting over from the beginning” – as opposed to a return to a previous high point. In theology, this would mean the ultimate eradication of any nostalgia for a previous politico-theological era. A radical rethinking of the very roots of theology are needed, and a theoretical blind eye must turned to modern antagonisms. As Barth once advised: we should utterly ignore the world when going about the business of theology, but always do so for the sake of the world.