PLURALISM IS NOT RELATIVISM (4): the struggle for intellectual hegemony and the travestying of pluralism

“We are witnessing today the struggle for intellectual hegemony — for who will occupy the universal place of the “public intellectual” — between postmodern-deconstructionist cultural studies and the cognitivist popularizers of “hard” sciences” (Zizek, “Lacan Between Cultural Studies And Cognitivism”).

Zizek proposes his own regressive solution to escape from this dichotomy: an imaginary Lacanism (that I have named “Lacan-Z“) put together retrospectively to outflank both constructivism and cognitivism. The position elaborated in Zizek’s texts amounts to the combination of a poststructuralist approach (the big Other does not exist) and of a regressive Freudo-Lacanian recoding of such ideas. Zizek takes deconstructive and pluralist arguments and then retranscribes them in what he calls “Lacanese”. But this Lacan never existed, it is the necessary mask for Zizek’s own ideas, a heuristic fantasy.

Zizek wavers between poststructuralist pluralism and a monist reductionism founded on his idiosyncratic reading of Lacanian psychoanalysis. Despite the grand declarations, Zizek does not accomplish any break with and going beyond poststructuralism, rather his work represents its continuation . Unless one accepts his caricature of poststructuralism as an accurate description, in which case it is no big thing to go beyond it.

This strategy of unavowed parasitic feeding on and misrepresentation of pluralist thought (when Zizek talks about postmodern, deconstructionist, or poststructuralist thought he is targeting the pluralist thought of Deleuze, Foucault, Lyotard, and Derrida) is no invention of Zizek’s. Deleuze and Guattari argue convincingly that Lacan’s thought is a compromise formation between the monism of his predecessor Freud and various pluralist insights that he integrated to correct or to pluralise the system partially. So, like Freud, Lacan feeds on, without giving proper recognition to, the “other image of thought” that Deleuze explicitly links with the names of Nietzsche, William James, and Whitehead.

(Note: for more on the forgotten contribution of William James to ontological pluralism one can read this post by James Stanescu. For an elucidation of Whitehead’s contribution to a non-reductionist social constructionism, where “society” is taken to refer to all entities, and not just to human associations, see Matthew Segall’s post).

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One Response to PLURALISM IS NOT RELATIVISM (4): the struggle for intellectual hegemony and the travestying of pluralism

  1. D says:

    Nah, you didn’t show me how Zizek’s Lacanian arguments function. You didn’t explain HOW (which is of course always the crux of any thesis 🙄) his argument “wavers between poststructuralist pluralism and monism.” So I will give you the most vital theory he provides which may indeed be what you say it is, but nevertheless I don’t see why even this wavering is an issue at all? You don’t really say much…

    The parallax view: essentially he wants to take pluralism (i.e. Postmodern thought) and instead of pronouncing each view as equally correct, he wants to point out how one partial view is in fact the inner scandal of the other view. In other words: one partial view is preferred over another (not pluralism) because it exposes the gap between AND WITHIN both terms.

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