Tagged with slavoj zizek

150.195 LAC The Seminar of Jacques Lacan Book XI: The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis

I first encountered Lacan in the context of literary theory. It shouldn’t be too surprising that Lacan was of interest to literary theorists as he had a great deal to say about the linguistic and psychological nature of utterances, signifier, signified and the communication of ideas. And yet, his ability to communicate his ideas seems encumbered. Even his audience of psychiatrists were often confused. This book is a transcription of a series of lectures Lacan gave and includes some of the post-lecture Q&A sessions. This exchange did a decent job of summing up Lacan’s communication:

Lacan: Have I thrown some light on your question?

J.-A. Miller: Some light and some shadow. 

I had picked this book up because Slavoj Žižek made a great deal of reference to Lacan in his In Defense of Lost Causes, but I didn’t really feel like I gained much elucidation from reading Lacan.

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149.97 ZIZ In Defense of Lost Causes

I had a doctor’s appointment while I was reading this and my doctor asked me what the lost causes were that were being defended. I had to admit I didn’t know. Having finished the book, I have a somewhat better sense of what Žižek means with his title. The lost causes he refers to are all manner of ultimately failed revolutions, the October Revolution in Russia, Leninism, Stalinism, Maoism, even Heidegger’s association with Naziism.

Žižek is working in this book to create a reinterpretation of Marxism calling back to Hegel and bringing in concepts from Freud and Lacan. The book is an eclectic mix of cultural criticism, history and philosophy as part of Žižek’s effort to come up with an authentic Marxism for the twenty-first century. In particular, Žižek sees revolution and failure as essential elements of Marxism and not mere incidentals. A revolution, paradoxically, has to fail in order to succeed in Žižek’s view because there can be no end of history and the dialectic must continue.

Of particular note to me were the sections on Stalin. I’ve wanted to write something for a while from the perspective of a true believer in Stalin and this gives me some of the material that I’ve desperately needed.

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