If you have read far enough into my new book, The Last Psychoanalyst, you will know that I accord famed Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek an important role in the history of psychoanalysis. See also my previous posts on Zizek.
On the off chance that you believe I was exaggerating about him or that I was trafficking in caricature, I draw your attention to Rebecca Schuman’s portrait of the philosopher as a clown. In fact, I might have been slightly too generous in calling him a philosopher-clown.
Schuman describes Zizek:
Slovenian critical-theory superstar Slavoj Žižek is the “Elvis of cultural theory,” one of the most famous and eminent philosophers alive and working today—second only, perhaps, to his arch-nemesis Noam Chomsky, with whom he spent the better part of 2013 in a highly publicized feud. His work is all but worshipped by his adherents. He is feted at conferences convened for no other reason than to celebrate him.
If you remove the veil, Schuman explains, you arrive at the man himself. It’s not a pretty picture:
He is also a grade-A, number-one, world-class jerk, who brings to life the worst caricature of the humanities eminence: someone who loves subjecting other people to his talks, but who loathes contact with students—who, being “like other people,” are mostly “boring idiots.”
Why are Zizek’s students “boring idiots.” Could it be because they spend their time reading people like Slavoj Zizek? Or perhaps, their idolization of Zizek may be an irrefutable proof of their idiocy.
In any case, Zizek treats them with utter contempt. Perhaps they deserve it; perhaps not. Yet, if they allow themselves to be treated this way they are telling us that they think they deserve it.
In Schuman’s words:
“If you don’t give me any of your shitty papers,” Žižek told students at The New School in New York—who may have matriculated at that institution for the sole purpose of working with Slavoj Žižek—“you get an A. If you give me a paper, I may read it and not like it, and you can get a lower grade.”
Certainly, the great Slovenian has no interest in actually talking to students:
“Here in the United States, students tend to be so open that sooner or later, if you are kind to them, they even start to ask you personal questions, [share their] private problems; could you help them, and so on. And what should I tell them? I don’t care. Kill yourself. It’s not my problem.” The Žižekophant giving the interview laughs at this, hard.
The real problem with Žižek, in any case, isn’t that he feels this way or that he says these things aloud. It’s that he does so and people think it’s hilarious.
As a footnote: I did not include pictures in my book, but Slate magazine has chosen a photo of Zizek to accompany Schuman’s article:
At least, now you will understand why people think that Zizek is so funny.