Polemical Ambivalence: Modernity and Utopia in Žižek's The Puppet and the Dwarf

Contemporary Political Theory 6 (3):272-290 (2007)
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Abstract

Beginning from the hypothesis that Slavoj iek's recent 'theological' writing really concerns issues in political theory — historicity, modernity and freedom — 'polemical ambivalence' uses a fundamental structural ambiguity in his recent book, The Puppet and Dwarf, to interpret his larger project as split about the utopian aspect of modernity. The Puppet and the Dwarf is riven by modernity, with the text's central argument demonstrating the importance of the modern perspective but with the framing material demanding that we reverse this appraisal. Modernism elicits both a basic allegiance from iek and a basic opposition. Since for iek it is the only way that political theory can remain true to the utopian demands of freedom, such 'ambivalence' about modernity is the unacknowledged ground of iek's thought, and my paper moves toward a consideration of its value in explaining some of the elusive elements of his work — the role and limits of 'science' in politics, the necessity and impossibility of utopian imagination, the problem of belief and faith in revolutionary movements.

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Thomas Brockelman
Le Moyne College

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