The Sublime Object of Ideology
The cornerstone of Žižek’s work is his first English language text, The Sublime Object of Ideology, which explores ideological constraints and “fantasies of wholeness and exclusion which make up human society.” Here, you get the full Žižek. Throw Marx, Freud, Hegel, Lacan, Derrida, and Althusser into a blender. Add science fiction, Wagner, Hitchcock, Alien, and rants on deconstruction and postmodernism.
Religion and Atheism
Žižek relates the canned laughter heard on our favorite television shows (“my most intimate feelings can be radically externalized, I can literally ‘laugh and cry through another,’ or “[The TV] literally laughs for you”) to religious beliefs and the notion that we transfer our beliefs onto another. In the second clip, a two-hour lecture, Žižek explores the “complicated relationship between belief, or what we take to be belief, and our desire to see all” in a post-9/11 world. “Gangnam Style,” Buddhism, and Justin Bieber also get a shout out.
The Occupy Wall Street Movement
Žižek held court at Zuccotti Park, addressing the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators. “Don’t fall in love with yourselves. Carnivals come cheap. What matters is the day after, when we will have to return to normal lives. Will there be any changes then?” he warned protestors. You can read the full transcript of his speech over here, or watch a brief clip from his interview with Charlie Rose for a glimpse at several of his talking points (communism and capitalism).
The Government Shutdown
Žižek’s thoughts on freedom and the “twisted ideology” of the radical right regarding the government shutdown and ObamaCare debates were summarized in an article at the Guardian. “A lot of things have to be regulated if we are to enjoy our non-regulated freedom,” he states. Defending Obama, he writes: “In situations of deep crisis, an authentic division is urgently needed: a division between those who want to drag on within the old parameters and those who are aware of the need for radical change. This, not opportunistic compromise, is the only path to true unity.”
Happiness and Desire
Žižek believes happiness is hypocritical, because “we don’t really want what we think we desire.” And when we actually obtain our desires, it’s “the worst thing that can happen to us.” It’s a simplified explanation of Lacan’s module on desire, which essentially states that fantasy and the absence of desire is necessary for desire to persist.
Žižek himself is the subject of Astra Taylor’s 2005 documentary produced by Zeitgeist Films, revealing why he’s earned the title of “the Elvis of cultural theory.” Watch Žižek talk the nature of philosophy from bed, browse movies at Kim’s in New York City, and other day-in-the-life shenanigans.
Dogs and cats living together… mass hysteria! In this clip, Žižek recognizes our culture’s shifting views about sex. Sex is no longer transgressive — it’s falling in love that’s the problem. (Starts around the 2:57 mark.)