Voyou Désœuvré

And by “reviews” I mean “asserts that he’s wrong”:

You can, and should, complain vociferously about the harms and wrongs perpetrated by capitalism, but to describe them all as violence makes it impossible to distinguish between what happens when an multinational oil company raises its prices and when it pays to have people bullied off land above an oil deposit. Being paid a low wage and being shot in the head are two different things. If you use the same word for both you are muddling, weakening and misdirecting your argument.

Watch: Monty Python’s Argument Sketch


  1. Adam Kotsko, 6:10 am, June 28, 2008

    But he says in the review itself that Zizek distinguishes between subjective and objective violence!

    These fucking people…

  2. Tyler, 1:22 pm, June 30, 2008

    1. The fact that he associates Zizek’s name with post-modernism is an immediate red-flag that this reviewer has absolutely no familiarity with Z.’s position, or perhaps is simply relying on that terms common pejorative connotation.

    2. Why must every single introductory article on Zizek use the “Elvis of theory/postmodernism/cultural criticism” trope? It would be interesting to know who we should ultimately blame for this one. I think we can safely distrust anyone who uses this cliche.

  3. voyou, 9:31 pm, June 30, 2008

    I think calling him a sociologist is another warning sign. I guess given his academic affiliation it’s technically true, but I can’t imagine describing any of his work as “sociology.”

  4. Nate, 10:31 am, July 9, 2008

    If y’all say Grayling misses nuance then I’ll accept it as I’m the novice in the room, but I’d like to know what the missed nuance is – as opposed to quibbling over Zizek’s disciplinary home or whether he is postmodern or not, the latter is particularly forgivable I think given the vagaries of the use of that term in different parts of universities and given some of the sources Zizek draws on and engaged with.

    I think the point makes sense that over-use of the word violence is trivializing and obscurantist. For instance, having bailed out of comparative literature I hope I never again have to hear anyone speak of the violence that language does to the subject or similar phrases.

    Again I don’t know much about Zizek (though I’ve yet to see much that makes me want to) so I’ll defer to those who do, but the review seems pretty cogent to me.

  5. voyou, 10:43 am, July 9, 2008

    Well, the main problem I had with Grayling’s review is that Žižek has a specific argument in favor of describing both “a low wage and being shot in the head” as violent (basically, that calling the latter violence but not the former serves as an implicit justification of the former; Grayling’s review itself is an example of this, I think). So, when Grayling says “these two things are different,” he’s not making any kind of useful criticism of Žižek; he’s just asserting the opposite. Hence the link to the Monty Python video.

Post a comment