For Zizek DISPARITIES is an act of “philosophical warfare”. It is a political intervention in the domain of philosophy, in favour of a “new practice of philosophy”. Zizek agrees with Althusser’s thesis that philosophy is class struggle in the field of theory, and specifies that here it is a question of a “struggle against the different forms of obfuscating disparity”. He favours division and struggle rather than dialogue and consensus. He wishes to draw a line of demarcation between the deployment of disparity (or “ontological difference”) and its obfuscation.
I think that we can share Zizek’s concern without necessarily adopting all his conclusions. Another way of formulating this struggle would be the attempt to formulate a view of the universe as open (and recall that Zizek has said that for the true materialist the universe is open all the way down) without falling into postmodern relativism. We need both disparity and realism.
The book has a triadic structure. It is composed of an introduction, three parts (each of which contains three chapters) and a conclusion. The three parts repeat the classic triad of the True, the Beautiful and the Good, in that order, or epistemology/ontology (“ontological difference in the age of science”), aesthetics (“the role of ugliness and disgust in modern subjectivity”), and political theology (“the ongoing theological-political mess”).
Another way of seeing this structure would be to keep in mind Badiou’s notion of the four truth conditions (science, art, love and politics). Zizek has elaborated an ontology in his earlier works (most notably in LESS THAN NOTHING and in ABSOLUTE RECOIL) which he uses in this book to critique the various ideological sutures and obstacles in our approach to these four domains. Part1 concerns science, part 2 art, and part 3 both love and politics.
Up to now in my review I have considered the first two chapters in Part 1, which sums up what we could call his critique of ontological reason:
At the ontological level, disparity is at its most radical ontological difference, so the first part of the book deals with the persistence of ontological difference in our capitalist-technological world which is getting more and more one-dimensional.
The enemies of disparity that Zizek deals with in this first part are the hegemony of scientism (the “predominance of scientific reason”) and the compensating reaction of object-oriented ontology and its technique of ontological re-enchantment. In the third and last chapter of Part 1 Zizek examines a second compensating reaction to scientism that attempts to regulate science by the imposition of transcendental norms with the aim of intersubjective communication and consensus. The next post will discuss this attempt to obfuscate disparity.