Where’s the Point?: Slavoj Žižek and the Broken Sword

Gregory Fried
Boston College
While Žižek is right to assert both that Heidegger’s political engagement must be confronted as a genuine philosophical challenge and that our modern predicament demands new thinking, I argue that Žižek is wrong to claim that Heidegger made the right step in 1933, even if in the wrong direction. Using the same story as Žižek, G. K. Chesterton’s “The Sign of the Broken Sword,” I argue that Žižek’s sword is also broken, because in the absence of a “big Other,” it is not possible to give an orientation or direction for political action. Furthermore, given that absence, I claim that Žižek’s call for an enthusiastic politics that merges self with society is particularly dangerous: rather than fulfill a Dionysian moment in politics, it threatens to unleash what I call a priapic politics. I end by suggesting that Žižek’s argument heralds the death of the binary distinction between “Left” and “Right,” and I argue for a return to a politics of prudence
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