Reading DISPARITIES (1): Zizek, China Miéville and the Ontology of the Kraken

At first sight Zizek’s new book DISPARITIES looks like a disjointed disparate set of reading notes on a diverse group of trendy books from within the fields of Continental Philosophy and of Speculative Realism. To that extent its title is apprpopriate, if only as mise en abyme of self-description.

However, we quickly realise that the disparity of the title constitutes a new member of the heterogeneous chain of master terms embodying the provisional unity underlying Zizek’underlying ontological project. Other terms include negativity, parallax, quantum incompleteness, dialectical materialism, or ontological difference.

One could easily add to this chain Bruno Latour’s recent concept of “being-as-other”. In effect, each of these terms is a temporary halting point, provisional quilting points for the work in progress (or at least in process). Zizek cites, and tries to distinguish himself from, Althusser, Deleuze, Derrida, and Adorno. Yet he is of the same ilk as them, and his attempted self-distinction fails.

Zizek’s distinction from these fellow thinkers is tied to his interpretation of dialectics. It lies in his refusal to read Hegel as a monistic philosopher of of totality, of unification and reconciliation. He argues that in Hegel’s thought there is no unifying substantial “mole” or cunning of reason, no dialectical determinism, no puppet-master of history. For Hegel, as for Lacan, substance is barred, subject is barred, negativity is primary, there is no Big Other. Against the hermeneutics of the monistic mole, Zizek proposes a an intensive and disparate reading of Hegel as Kraken.

But Zizek himself is sometimes guilty of uniform perspectives and molish readings. In the case of Deleuze this leads Zizek to dismiss the disparate concept of the “rhizome” for the sole reason that it is derived from Jung. Zizek jokingly calls this atavistic Jung-phobia an example of his “Stalinist” prejudices, where Stalin is one of the names of Zizek’s mole.

Zizek’s “criticism” of the notion of rhizome does not invalidate the concept at all, and applies equally to his own position. Jung is Zizek’s blindspot, just as he argues Hegel is for Deleuze.

In Zizek’s mind “Jung” is the symbol of all that is homogeneous, harmonious and holistic, whereas Deleuze, like many post-Jungians, uses Jung for his disparate pluralist potential. Zizek criticises Deleuze for being influenced by Jung. He singles out the “rhizome” as a Jungian concept and proceeds to replace it with the concept of the Kraken. Of course the Kraken is just as Jungian a concept as the rhizome. But Zizek having at the outset ritually denounced Jungianism he can now tranquilly go on to embody it unconsciously.

Continental Philosophy is full of knee-jerk anti-Jungianism, due to a lack of openness and transparency, and of acknowledgement of disparateness, in its own intellectual history. It maintains a deconstructive relation to Freud without realising that Jung was the first to deconstruct Freud effectively.

(In fact, Lacan did an internship at the Burghölzli Clinic in August and September 1930 under the directorship of Hans Maier, Jung’s ex-assistant. I think that Lacan was more exposed to Jungian ideas than he let on, preferring to foreground instead the influence of Surrealism, which pursued a similar deconstruction of Freudism to Jung’s.)

The first critique/deconstruction of Freudian ego psychology does not date from Lacan but from Jung, but you would never guess this from Lacanian discussions of the failings of ego psychology. Deleuze had more openness and more honesty, freely admitting to Jung’s influence from the early 60s onwards. Zizek’s denegation represents a regression.

Deleuze and Guattari have the rhizome, taken from Jung, but they also have the Thing, the Entity, from the Lovecraftian/Melvillean model. The Kraken is a figuration of both, of their unity. For these thinkers the rhizome is ambivalent between the mole and the kraken.

Zizek in DISPARITIES gives attention only to the authoritarian aspect of the rhizome, that of secret manipulation and determination. He begins by arbitrarily equating the pluralist rhizome and the monist mole as instances of covert determination. He then proposes his own solution, the Kraken, which in fact is merely a repetition of the ignored uncanny Real aspect of the rhizome.

See also my discussion on Deleuze, Lacan, Zizek, Jung here.

The science fiction writer China Miéville, from his early novel KING RAT (describing the becoming rat of its hero) to his recent novella THE LAST DAYS IN NEW PARIS, is far more Deleuzian (and so Jungian) in his style of the “weird” than Lacanian. Miéville provides us with an example of the disparate in the realm of science fiction and his weird ontology is both Zizekian and Deleuzian. See:

The conclusion of Zizek’s Introduction to DISPARITIES is finally a methodological lesson that has nothing to do with the superficial polemic against Deleuze, Jung, and Nietzsche that occupies the foreground of Zizek’s reiterated declarations of fidelity to Lacan and to Hegel. The main point is one that all of these thinkers agree on: in order to specify, and to exemplify, the idea of disparity Zizek must make use of a method and of procedures that are not given in advance but that emerge out of the confrontation between disparate ideas:

Method is not learned in advance: it emerges retroactively (DISPARITIES, 5).


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6 Responses to Reading DISPARITIES (1): Zizek, China Miéville and the Ontology of the Kraken

  1. Hunter says:



  2. Interesting – Hegel as Deleuze’s blindspot. I’ll have to read Zizek again!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: AGAINST POST-MODERN PHILO-BABBLE: reply to critics | AGENT SWARM

  4. Pingback: ZIZEK’S DELEUZE/LACAN PACT: an ongoing project | AGENT SWARM

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