Žižek, Hegel, Palin

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Slavoj Žižek, the famous Slovenian continental philosopher and critical theorist steeped in the traditions of Hegelianism, Marxism and Lacanian psychoanalysis, isn't exactly known for his American-style political punditry. Yet in his recent book, Living In The End Times, Žižek meandered into current events, seeking to situate the one-woman political carnival Sarah Palin within Hegel's philosophical project. The result is something that Tyler Cowen at Marginal Revolution deems "what you would get if Andrew Sullivan were a Lacanian and a Hegelian." Judge this excerpt for yourself:

Earlier generations of women politicians (Golda Meir, Indira Gandhi, Margaret Thatcher, up to a point even Hillary Clinton) were what is usually referred to as "phallic" women: they acted as "iron ladies" who imitated and tried to outdo male authority, to be "more men than men themselves." ...Jacques-Alain Miller pointed out how Sarah Palin, on the contrary, proudly displays her femininity and motherhood. She has a "castrating" effect on her male opponents not by way of being more manly than them, but by using the ultimate feminine weapon, the sarcastic put-down of male authority -- she knows that male "phallic" authority is a posture, a semblance to be exploited and mocked. Recall how she mocked Obama as a "community organizer," exploiting the fact that there was something sterile in Obama's physical appearance, with his diluted black skin, slender features, and big ears. Here we have "post-feminist" femininity without a complex, uniting the features of mother, prim teacher (glasses, hair in a bun), public person, and, implicitly, sex object, proudly displaying the "first dude" as a phallic toy. The message is that she "has it all" -- and that, to add insult to injury, it was a Republican woman who had realized this Left-liberal dream...No wonder that the Palin effect is one of false liberation: drill, baby, drill!


What this means -- in Hegelese -- the class struggle encounters itself in its oppositional determination (gegensätzliche Bestimmung), in its distorted/displaced form, as one among many social struggles. And, in exactly the same way, "anti-elitist" populism in architecture is the mode of appearance of its opposite, of class differences.

Sullivan, himself an accomplished academic, responds to Cowens comparison. "My problem with Palin is no longer Palin," responds Sullivan. "It is the stench of media and political corruption that has enabled this total phony to thrive." Ravi Somaiya at Gawker, on the other hand, simply gawks: "Of course, Palin already knew this because she reads everything."

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