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in a democracy, the ordinary citizen is effectively a king, but a king in a constitutional democracy, a king whose decisions are merely formal
July 15, 2009 5:23 PM   Subscribe

Berlusconi in Tehran by Slavoj Žižek in the London Review of Books
posted by blasdelf (25 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
Is there a link between Ahmadinejad and Berlusconi? Isn’t it preposterous even to compare Ahmadinejad with a democratically elected Western leader? Unfortunately, it isn’t: the two are part of the same global process. If there is one person to whom monuments will be built a hundred years from now, Peter Sloterdijk once remarked, it is Lee Kuan Yew, the Singaporean leader who thought up and put into practice a ‘capitalism with Asian values’. The virus of authoritarian capitalism is slowly but surely spreading around the globe. Deng Xiaoping praised Singapore as the model that all of China should follow.
That's some quality hand-waving right there.
posted by yoink at 5:33 PM on July 15, 2009


I am dying for this guy's 15 minutes to be over.
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:53 PM on July 15, 2009 [3 favorites]


A shorter version of this piece was first circulated online when the Tehran riots were still in full flower. At that point the attribution of the article was unconfirmed. A lot of people, myself included, immediately assumed it was a clumsy and unfair parody cobbled together by a Žižek-basher.
posted by stammer at 5:57 PM on July 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Kung Fu Panda, the 2008 cartoon hit, provides the basic co-ordinates for understanding the ideological situation I have been describing.

Could there be a more stereotypically Zizekian sentence?
posted by nasreddin at 6:00 PM on July 15, 2009 [5 favorites]


I'm pretty sure the use of Ž̜̰͔iž̯̺e̘k̟̠ ̟͓̝̩̥̮ was banned.
posted by gman at 6:01 PM on July 15, 2009


Do I have to do my Žižek impression again?
posted by languagehat at 6:23 PM on July 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm reading this, thinking, "hmmm, this guy may be onto something" and then, bam, Kung Fu Panda.

I'm sure he's saying something really profound but this essay sounds like the sort of thing that I write in my diary after drinking six beers while watching Gattaca.
posted by Avenger at 6:26 PM on July 15, 2009


See nothing to object to in what I take to be the thrust of the article, that "the link between democracy and capitalism has been broken," and there's sufficient meat in the examples he gives of the specific local forms of democracy "losing ground with the rise of authoritarian capitalism."
Also feel he's right here: "What all this means is that there is a genuinely liberatory potential in Islam: we don’t have to go back to the tenth century to find a ‘good’ Islam, we have it right here, in front of us" and that this was well put: "no, we don’t need a dialogue between religions (or civilisations), we need a bond of political solidarity between those who struggle for justice in Muslim countries and those who participate in the same struggle elsewhere."
I missed the early enthusiasm for Zizek, so perhaps am also late to the backlash; as I said in a comment when I posted up a series of talks he'd done a while back, I have no problem letting whatever quirky apparent irrelevance he wants to include wash over me as I'm happy to give time to someone who seems to be addressing questions that matter.
posted by Abiezer at 6:29 PM on July 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


See nothing to object to in what I take to be the thrust of the article, that "the link between democracy and capitalism has been broken,"

Fair enough--the problem is that the things in this essay which are plausible are utterly unoriginal (as the above example) and the things that are original are utterly nutbar.
posted by yoink at 6:34 PM on July 15, 2009


I'm reading this, thinking, "hmmm, this guy may be onto something" and then, bam, Kung Fu Panda.

With all due respect, this is what languagehat's impression misses out. The beats of a standard Ž routine run like this:

1. Remember this Looney Tunes bit?
2. It's a bit like this obscure event from revolutionary history, isn't it?
3. It's all because of this thing out of Freud (Lacan).
4. But not the stupid, obvious interpretation, which stupid left-wing activists believe because they are stupid children.
5. You can also see the same thing at work in this current event that everybody's talking about.
6. Surprisingly, the most revolutionary position to take vis-a-vis this current event is basically the same as the mainstream liberal position.
7. This is because of dialectics.
posted by stammer at 6:40 PM on July 15, 2009 [86 favorites]


8. Repeat.
posted by TwelveTwo at 6:49 PM on July 15, 2009


Maybe I'm just hungry for more analysis of what's been happening in Iran but I'm not about to dismiss the entire essay just because of several (knowing the author, typical) analogies that fail. This, for example, is provocative and interesting:
First, Ahmadinejad is not the hero of the Islamist poor, but a corrupt Islamofascist populist, a kind of Iranian Berlusconi whose mixture of clownish posturing and ruthless power politics is causing unease even among the ayatollahs. His demagogic distribution of crumbs to the poor shouldn’t deceive us: he has the backing not only of the organs of police repression and a very Westernised PR apparatus. He is also supported by a powerful new class of Iranians who have become rich thanks to the regime’s corruption – the Revolutionary Guard is not a working-class militia, but a mega-corporation, the most powerful centre of wealth in the country.
This observation makes a good addition to a New Yorker piece from February about economic policy and politics in Iran.

But if there's other, better grounded trenchant observations about coalitions in Iran, please share here, thanks!
posted by noway at 6:50 PM on July 15, 2009


Metafilter: This is because of dialectics.
posted by mdonley at 6:54 PM on July 15, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'm reading this, thinking, "hmmm, this guy may be onto something" and then, bam, Kung Fu Panda.

...then Niels Bohr...then the Marx Brothers...all in one paragraph. I swear he must put stuff like that in just to discredit his authority. A way of saying, 'You should have been questioning everything else I said too, not just the bit about Kung Fu Panda.'

Other than that, articles like this make me feel like an idiot for not being able to hold the entire argument in my head, or to distinguish the main point from the many little subpoints. I feel vaguely in agreement, but also queasy at the thought committing to such a big mash of ideas.
posted by Sova at 7:15 PM on July 15, 2009


Those of you criticizing the inclusion of "Kung Fu Panda": Do you think Berlusconi is somehow deserving of a more serious comparison? There is no "Part" about the movie, he simply says, in one sentence that the two are comparable.
posted by delmoi at 7:58 PM on July 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


I tend to think of Žižek as the Damien Hirst of philosophy, inasmuch as both elicit a gut reaction of loathing from me, which, on reflection, I realize could be intentional. This does not lessen the feeling.
posted by Nomiconic at 7:59 PM on July 15, 2009


1. Remember this Looney Tunes bit?
2. It's a bit like this obscure event from revolutionary history, isn't it?
3. It's all because of this thing out of Freud (Lacan).
4. But not the stupid, obvious interpretation, which stupid left-wing activists believe because they are stupid children.
5. You can also see the same thing at work in this current event that everybody's talking about.
6. Surprisingly, the most revolutionary position to take vis-a-vis this current event is basically the same as the mainstream liberal position.
7. This is because of dialectics.


Utterly brilliant. I've seen this exact argument from him at least 5 times in different places.
posted by nasreddin at 8:08 PM on July 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


should anyone be allowed to use the word 'islamofascist' without a gallon of raw shit being poured on their head? or am i an islamofascist for thinking no....
posted by geos at 9:16 PM on July 15, 2009


I can't believe my favourite ever Guardian Weekend Q&A has never been linked here!

What makes you depressed? Seeing stupid people happy.

What would be your fancy dress costume of choice? A mask of myself on my face, so people would think I am not myself but someone pretending to be me.
posted by rory at 4:36 AM on July 16, 2009 [3 favorites]


This, for example, is provocative and interesting

No it's not, it's the standard take on Ahmadinejad (by people who know anything about Iran, obviously, not Neanderthal blowhards). yoink has it right: the things that are plausible are unoriginal and the things that are original are nutbar.
posted by languagehat at 5:30 AM on July 16, 2009


the things that are plausible are unoriginal
How often I and the lady wife remark on the constant harping in our popular press on the democratic deficit of capitalism. Er, what?
posted by Abiezer at 6:04 AM on July 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


So anything that's not harped on in the popular press is by definition original? I see, that should make it much easier to get papers published than I had thought.
posted by languagehat at 8:18 AM on July 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


What would be your fancy dress costume of choice? A mask of myself on my face, so people would think I am not myself but someone pretending to be me.

Heh. Remember that Obama appearance on SNL during the primary where he visits Hillary wearing a mask of himself and then says "I don't change who I am just because it's Halloween". That was kind of funny.
posted by delmoi at 8:39 AM on July 16, 2009



I enjoyed this review of Timothy Garton Ash's book, in which he explains the cultural difference between the UK, France and Germany based on the different designs of our toilets.

I'm sure he's right btw.
posted by munchbunch at 10:11 AM on July 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


I enjoyed this review of Timothy Garton Ash's book, in which he explains the cultural difference between the UK, France and Germany based on the different designs of our toilets.

He did the same thing in an article in Playboy, except he used women's pubic hair styles or something.
posted by nasreddin at 10:20 AM on July 16, 2009


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