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Carsten Strathausen Facing ¿izek Has 2i2ek gone soft? Is he fading away, unable to secure the impressive contours of his life's achievements? Those who have taken a look at the most recent Conversations with ¿izek surely know what I am talking about. The book's cover pictures íiiék's face completely blurry and out of focus, a pale anemic specter barely representing the real thing. A frightening sight, it caused the publishers to reprint the same photograph once again in the body of the book, this time with full contrasts and sharpened edges, as if to reassure the reader of the continued existence of the "real" ¿iiek, spirit and bone and all. Of course, the book's pictures signify more than that, and I am tempted to read themas an acknowledgmentofZiiek's ambiguous profile on today's academic market, which increasingly pitches Zilek the thinker vs. Ziiek the Stalinist. Whereas the former cautiously presents a sketchy outline of his highly complex politico-philosophical ideas, the latter revels in an edgy political rhetoric demanding full responsibility for the "militant act" and his own "clear cut positions." I would argue that the battle between these two profoundly different, yet uncannily similar, profiles of Ziiek can be traced all the way back to the 1989 Sublime Object ofIdeology. Since, Ziiek's various guises have proven extremely difficult to pin down because he always appears to be in excess ofhimself. No wonder, then, that some critics have identified him as little more than a commodity for and a symptom of our own academic market, while others have compared to him "a virulent plague or... a computer virus" (Daly 1). Meanwhile, his harshest critics have raised the possibility of him being an "obscenity-obsessed Thing emerging from the blacklagoon ofStalinism" (Harpham, "Doing" 467) or an "authoritarian" leader unabashedly promoting "anti-Semitic and antifeminist phantasms" (Breger 75). The difficulty to determine where the "real" Ziiek is to be located has also led to a widespread unease among politically engaged leftists regarding Ziiek's actual commitment to the cause. Peter Dews, for example, already contended a decade ago that "Ziiek is ultimately a 'Right Hegelian' masquerading—albeit unwittingly—as a 'Left Hegelian'" (27). More recently, Brian Nicol has suggested that "Ziiek. occupies a rather paradoxical position for a Marxist" (151), whereas Denise Gigante simply concludes that "Ziiek is unique" precisely because "he fundamentally has no position" at all (153; see also Homer 7). I must confess that I myself have been looking for the "real" Ziiek for quite a while, and although I have visited a good many conferences over the years where he was billed to appear in person, he never actually showed up. Recently, I have even begun to wonder if Ziiek "really" exists or if he is 240 the minnesota review just a fantasy produced by his various publishers in order to keep selling books. Ironically, that would render Ziiek himself all the more "real" according to his own theoretical framework. For the Real, Ziiek contends, is but the constitutive "grimace of reality, a certain imperceptible, unfathomable , ultimately illusory feature" that remains "impossible to sustain in a face-to-face look" ("Rhetorics" 99). The Real, like Ziiek himself, has no face of its own, but appears only in and through the many guises and distorted appearances of reality itself. The "real" Ziiek, then, only exists in between his various pictures that circulate in the press. In order to confront the former , we must seek to efface the apparent differences between the latter in order to approach the topographical void that sustains them. A Capital Thinker This void is Capital, and Ziiek himself has pointed out that Capital is now the Real. It follows that the "real" Ziiek is best understood as a capital thinker in the three-fold meaning of the term. First and foremost, Ziiek is big, larger than life. The "giant of Ljubljana" is an academic celebrity if there ever was one (in spite of his bizarre and ultimately ridiculous selfdepiction as a academically marginalized Lacanian scholar).1 Thus, he is subject to Capital. Ziiek is the first to acknowledge this power relationship , arguing that it is virtually impossible to...


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pp. 239-246
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