It’s been more than fashionable to label our time as “post-critical”, a designation for the seeming omniscience of the democratic-political order. Ideology, and its bastard son ideology critique, had its hey-day, but we’ve learned the lessons of the past, and now it’s time to move into an always-emerging state of cynical dystopia. It’s obvious that this is not in fact the case, and that people and institutions still speak and act as mouthpieces for ideology: following Zizek, it’s just changed from the classical “they know not what they do” to the modern “they know what they do, but they do it anyway!” This doesn’t mean the end of criticism, it just means that criticism needs to change from the mode of “revealing the secret desires” to the mode of “revealing the secret desires behind the desires already exposed.”
In this vein, it’s quite nice to see examples of subversive critique in the current political climate, especially in relation to the Occupy movement. Zizek, in the LRB blog, had this to say regarding some of the nonsensical criticisms of OWS:
The Wall Street protests are just a beginning, but one has to begin this way, with a formal gesture of rejection which is more important than its positive content, for only such a gesture can open up the space for new content. So we should not be distracted by the question: ‘But what do you want?’ This is the question addressed by male authority to the hysterical woman: ‘All your whining and complaining – do you have any idea what you really want?’ In psychoanalytic terms, the protests are a hysterical outburst that provokes the master, undermining his authority, and the master’s question – ‘But what do you want?’ – disguises its subtext: ‘Answer me in my own terms or shut up!’ So far, the protesters have done well to avoid exposing themselves to the criticism that Lacan levelled at the students of 1968: ‘As revolutionaries, you are hysterics who demand a new master. You will get one.’
Likewise, voyou made a similar claim about the perverse displacement of desire in relation to the always ubiquitous call against protest-led property damage:
Liberals complain about property damage during the various marches and actions, but they’re quick to add that it is not they themselves who are disturbed or offended; rather, they are concerned about the effect this property damage will have on others, particularly the cops who will react violently and the media who will focus on images of destruction to the exclusion of whatever else the demonstration achieved. The liberal’s position here is perverse in the Lacanian sense: it expresses itself not as an actual desire, but as a desire to be the instrument of the desire of some fantasized other. Part of what supports this disavowed desire is that the objection to property damage can present itself as neutral, even expert, strategic advice.
Who said philosophy isn’t practical?