VIOLENCE: SIX SIDEWAYS REFLECTIONS
BY SLAVOJ ZIZEK
NEW YORK: PICADOR (2008)
The breed of philosophy and cultural criticism practiced by Slavoj Zizek is distinctly mestizo. In Violence: Six Sideways Reflections, Zizek’s singular ability to marshal disparate cultural referents, from pop culture to politics, psychoanalysis and beyond, and to distill these ideations into a compelling, tornadic constellation, is on rare display.
Violence continues Zizek’s prolific career admonishing us to peer behind the appearance of things, to expose the mythic buttresses of cultural normativity. In a Sherlock Holmesian manner, Zizek methodically demonstrates that, within the global capitalist system, all agents are accessories to the commission of violence. The sorts of violence he references are myriad, yet hinge on a key distinction: subjective (visible) versus objective (systemic) violence. Subjective violence, he says, appears as “a perturbation of the ‘normal,’ peaceful state of things,” whereas objective violence is “the zero-level standard against which we perceive something as subjectively violent” (2).
“An individual capitalist thinks he is active for his own profit,” he says, “ignoring how he is serving the expanded reproduction of universal capital” (155). Devastatingly, yet hearteningly, Zizek reveals the ubiquity of human-interest storytelling (e.g., from rags to riches) as a monstrous fig leaf shading an abomination: that the dutiful behavior of “good” capitalists effectively perpetrates myriad forms of violence upon the world.
Date published: July 1, 2011