Friday, November 16, 2007

Milbank’s argument that Žižek’s ontology is inadequate to genuine socialism

Word has it that Žižek and Milbank are friends – writing a book together, even. I thought of this while reading the opening paragraph of Žižek’s most recent article:

One of the clearest lessons of the last few decades is that capitalism is indestructible. Marx compared it to a vampire, and one of the salient points of comparison now appears to be that vampires always rise up again after being stabbed to death. Even Mao’s attempt, in the Cultural Revolution, to wipe out the traces of capitalism, ended up in its triumphant return.

The paragraph is nothing unusual. It is the standard prestige of the Žižekian magic trick: first, we have to see the common household politico-economic assumption clearly before he deftly rolls it through his Hegelio-Lacanian fingers, and transforms it into…a common household politico-economic assumption…decked out in a sweet new “$ ◊ α” t-shirt…with weapons! But, beyond this, there was something in the way he admits here that “even Mao’s attempt…ended up” with the “triumphant return” of capitalism that brought Milbank to mind.
That is, it specifically brought to mind Milbank’s argument that Žižek’s ontology is inadequate to genuine socialism – revolution, maybe, but not socialism. And, justified or not, I read the subsequent salvo against Critchley with an eye toward gleaning some inkling as to how Žižek might formulate his response. In the process, I formulated a couple of my own observations about the intersection of their work, and a rather unexpected conclusion concerning the “democracy to come” crowd (part II.)
First, it seems to me that Žižek’s work is integral to Milbank’s in one very important respect. It is said that, during his recent appearance at Birkbeck, Milbank expressed his fundamental agreement with the Führerprinzip. Now, this should not have been unexpected, nor is it particularly indebted to Žižek. After all, as this, and the very existence of this, should demonstrate sufficiently, recourse to a leadership principle is simply the conclusion of any argument that begins with “Alasdair McIntyre.” But, it is the genuinely Leftist patina of that affirmation as it issues from Milbank (as opposed to the pompous, Chesterbellocian paranoia it could have become) that distinguishes him even from many of his allies. And this, I cannot help but believe, is due in large measure to the vision of proletarian dictatorship Žižek has been able to articulate via his engagement with Schmitt – a vision that effectively supplies Milbank with the proper concept of the political he needs to compliment his ecclesio-trinitarian ontology of hierarchical anarchy.
Second, there is a very important sense in which Milbank is integral, not so much to the content, but to the fact that Žižek says what he does. Milbank epitomizes everything that captivates Žižek about Fundamentalists, but with none of the perversities. In this way, being allied with Milbank essentially forces his audience to make the necessary passage through the Christian moment, to wrestle with what is worth fighting for there. Milbank is Žižek – the believer. There is a fundamental, theoretical rationale for this: Milbank is the prestige in the dialectical magic act Žižek is making regarding Christianity – the clearest presentation of common household Christianity acting für sich, the subversive kernel of which he wants to present to you an und für sich. (more…)


  1. Ah, the Big Time Talkers of Big Time (false) "religion"---"religion" created in the long ago childhood of man.

    In this day and age the usual jesus death & "resurrection" show fits squarely into the urban legend category---fantastic tall stories for the credulous.

    Never mind that the current world crisis is a manifestation of over 3000 years of patriarchal culture and its drive to total power and control over everything. As such the crisis has a vast historical almost unstoppable momentum behind it.

    And to think that some one dimensional pea-brained theory or theology is going to make any difference to the current universal insanity is worse than wishful thinking.

    Speaking of leadership, what about the time honoured Tradition of turning to the Realized Saints and Sages for advice and guidance instead of the sex-paranoid Big Talkers and glamour boy adolescent "philsophers".

    Traditionally, especially in India, the politicians knew that to govern well they had to maintain an association with Saints and Realizers, with people of greater and deeper experience. In times past, political leaders knew they had to go into the retreat hermitages of Saints and Realizers to balance themselves and acquire a right view by which to serve the people. They did not always succed, obviously, but such was the tradition, and some did succeed.

    Nowadays it is taboo to resort to any body. TV tells people not to be so served. The one thing that can cure is anathematized, made profoundly taboo through the daily propaganda. Resort to the Pealizer is the only cure. Unless such resort once again becomes acceptable and people become transformed by it, the current trend is not going to change and it is going to get worse, and worse, and worse.

    The very thing that could cure humanity has been made taboo.

    The only cure is the Invasion of the Divine into the human realm, through Saints and Realizers of various degrees of Realization. Through their influence, humanity has at least to some degree been cured.

  2. What does ecclesio-trinitarian ontolgy mean? Sounds like psycho-babble to me.

    Is there any room for the blood thirsty bitch Kali, who eats the entire "cosmos" for breakfast in this ontology?

    Or Chinnamasta the self decapiated Goddess.

    And besides which the trinity that DOES govern eveyone and everything is the fear saturated trinity of active separation from the Divine Radiance, all "other" sentient beings, and the World Process altogether.

    These three interlocking fear based, and fear inducing presumptions, saturate every minute particle of our individual and collective existence.

    The ontolgy of fear rules.