Quotes…

April 17, 2008


Here are some quotes I’ve come across recently that I think shed some light on some ideas that Zizek works with:

1. I was thinking to myself recently, ‘what the hell does it mean to say that the working class is the ‘excluded’ element in capitalism?’ I found my answer in (surprise!) Marx:

A class must be formed that has radical chains, a class in civil society which is not of civil society, a class which is the dissolution of all classes, a sphere of society which has a universal character because its sufferings are universal…, which is, in short, a total loss of humanity and which can only redeem itself by a total redemption of humanity. This dissolution of society, as a particular class, is the proletariat (quoted in the editor’s introduction to The German Ideology, 13).

It comes from “Introduction to A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right”

2. This quote is from Lukac’s Tactics and Ethics and in it I think we can see, perhaps, where part of Zizek’s ‘ethical’ position comes from… or at least that it’s not completely new:

This contrast helps greatly to elucidate the tactics of the revolutionary classes and parties: their tactics are not determined by short-term immediately attainable advantages; indeed, they must sometimes reject such advantages as endangering what is truly important, the ultimate objective. But since the ultimate objective has been categorized, not as Utopia, but as reality which has to be achieved, positing it above and beyond the immediate advantage does not mean abstracting from reality or attempting to impose certain ideals on reality, but rather it entails the knowledge and transformation into action of those forces already at work within social reality – those forces, that is, which are directed towards the realization of the ultimate objective. Without this knowledge the tactics of every revolutionary class or party will vacillate aimlessly between a Realpolitik devoid of ideals and an ideology without real content. It was the lack of this knowledge which characterized the revolutionary struggle of the bourgeois class. An ideology of the ultimate goal existed even here, it is true, but it could not be organically integrated into the planning of concrete action; rather, it developed in a largely pragmatic way, in the creation of institutions which quickly became ends in themselves, thereby obscuring the ultimate objective itself and degrading it to the level of pure, already ineffectual ideology. The unique sociological significance of socialism is precisely that it provides a solution to this problem. For if the ultimate objective ofsocialism is utopian in the sense that it transcends the economic, legal and social limits of contemporary society and can only be realized through the destruction of that society, it is anything but utopian in the sense that its attainment would entail the absorption of ideas hovering outside or above society. The Marxist theory of class struggle, which in this respect is wholly derived from Hegel’s conceptual system, changes the transcendent objective into an immanent one; the class struggle of the proletariat is at once the objective itself and its realization. This process is not a means the significance and value of which can be judged by the standards of a goal which transcends it; it is rather a new elucidation of the utopian society, step by step, leap by leap, corresponding to the logic of history. This implies immersion in contemporary social reality. The ‘means’ are not alien to the goal (as was the case with the realization of bourgeois ideology); instead, they bring the goal closer to self-realization. It follows that there will be conceptually indeterminable transitional stages between the tactical means and the ultimate objective; it is never possible to know in advance which tactical step will succeed in achieving the ultimate objective itself.

3. This immediately made me think of Pascal’s wager:

Since there can be no talk of an independent ideology being developed by the masses of the workers in the process of their movement the only choice is: either bourgeois or socialist ideology. There is no middle course (for humanity has not created a “third” ideology, and, moreover, in a society torn by class antagonism there can never be a non-class or above-class ideology). Hence, to belittle socialst ideology in any way, to deviate from it in the slightest degree means strengthening bourgeois ideology (From What Is To Be Done in Essential works of Lenin, 82).

4. This is just something from one of Brecht’s plays that immediately made me think of Z:

Corporal: You’ll never amount to anything, blockhead, your heart’s not in it. Your senior officer sees this in little things. Yesterday, when I made the fat gal, yes, you grabbed her husband as I commanded, and you did kick him in the belly, at my request, but did you enjoy it, like a loyal Private, or were you just doing you duty? (Emphasis Brecht’s, in The Caucasian Chalk Circle, Eric Bentley, Trans. Signet Classic, Scarborough Ont, (!), 1983. Page 151).

Corporal: A good soldier has his heart and soul in it. When he receives an order, he gets a hard-on, and when he drives his lance into the enemy’s guts, he comes (152).

‘Corporal’, not so far from corporeal… obscene enjoyment as a combination of body with the law…

G

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