- Purchase/rental options available:
Slavoj Žižek has recently written quite extensively on Mao and China. This article is a commentary on his writings. Tracing the genealogy of Western Marxism from Gramsci, Athusser, and Badiou to Žižek, I argue that Žižek's misreading of the Chinese Revolution, especially Mao's theory and practice, as well as his comments on contemporary China reveal his Eurocentric biases and a habit of aestheticizing or poeticizing revolutionary practice. Žižek's misreading of Mao and China is largely based on abstract theorization, divorced from concrete specificity and historicity. His ultimate pessimism, camouflaged by radical hubris and theatricality, can neither help us further our understanding of China's struggles to modernity, particularly Mao's endeavors for alternatives, nor inspire us for the renewed searches for social change. Žižek's poeticized version of the Chinese Revolution is thus a theatrical parody-travesty of the true revolution, an imaginary rhapsody of "revolution without a revolution." Žižek's biases further reflect a proclivity among the Western Left to substitute historical and political critique with aesthetic theories and discourse.