Slavoj Žižek on Hegemonic Ideology

Slavoj Žižek quote from “Democracy’s Fascism Problem”:

“Of course, no privileged political agent knows inherently what is best for the people and has the right to impose its decisions on the people against their will (as the Stalinist Communist Party did). However, when the will of the majo[r]ity clearly violates basic emancipatory freedoms, one has not only the right but also the duty to oppose that majority. This is not reason to despise democratic elections — only to insist that they are not per se an indication of Truth. As a rule, elections reflect the conventional wisdom determined by the hegemonic ideology.”

Bonus links: “Draft Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen” and Footnote Four of Carolene Products

Svetlana Gouzenko – Before Igor: My Memories of a Soviet Youth

Vladimir Lenin All-Union Pioneer Organization“For the October Revolution our class produced a small play in which a group of young Pioneers expelled the heroes of Russian fairy tales as ‘non-Soviet elements’.  The curtain opened on this drab little group of Pioneers.  Their appearance brought no response from the audience.  Then the group leader . . . got up and made an introductory speech.  She explained that the old fairy tales, about princes and princesses, exploiters of simple folk, were unfit for Soviet children.  As for fairies and Father Frost [~Father Christmas/Santa Claus], they were simply myths created to fool children.

“After her speech the colorful crowd of ‘non-Soviet elements’ appeared on stage.  A sigh of delight passed through the hall and grew into a wave of applause . . . .

“The Trial began.  Cinderella was dragged before the judges and accused of betraying the working class . . . .  Next came Father Frost, who was accused of climbing down chimneys to spy on people.  One by one we were condemned to exile.  The only exception was Ivan the Fool, because he belonged to the common people and so was no traitor of his class.  He was renamed Ivan the Cunning.”

Svetlana Gouzenko, Before Igor: My Memories of a Soviet Youth (1961)

Gouzenko was the wife of Soviet defector/traitor Igor Sergeyevich Gouzenko, a key figure in the start of the “cold war”.  The passage quoted above sneers at the Pioneers, and sympathizes with betrayers of the working class, but wasn’t that play great?  Children should put it on again.

On Symbols and Reality

“In order to express our sense of reality, we must use some kind of symbol: words or notes or shades of paint or television pictures or sculpted forms.  None of those symbols or images can ever completely satisfy us because they can never be any more than what they are — a fragment of a reflection of what we feel reality to be.”

Fred Rogers, The World According to Mister Rogers: Important Things to Remember (2003).

“The map is not the territory; the map doesn’t cover all of the territory; and the map is self-reflexive (it becomes part of the territory).”

Alfred Korzybski, Science and Sanity (1933).

“the distinction between appearance and essence has to be inscribed into appearance itself.”

Slavoj Žižek, Less Than Nothing: Hegel and the Shadow of Dialectical Materialism (2012).

“One sees in effect that if here the signifier is a melting pot in so far as it bears witness to a presence that is past, and that inversely in what is signifying, there is always in the fully developed signifier which the word is, there is always a passage, namely something which is beyond each one of the elements which are articulated, and which are of their nature fleeting, vanishing, that is the passage from one to the other which constitutes the essential of what we call the signfying chain, and that this passage qua vanishing, is this very thing which can be trusted”

Jacques Lacan, Seminar V.

Robespierre on Property

“The first social law is therefore the one that guarantees all members of society the means to live; all others are subordinate to that one; property was only instituted and guaranteed to cement it.  It is in order to live that we have property in the first case. It is not true that property can ever be in opposition with men’s subsistence.

“The aliments necessary to man are as sacred as life itself.  Everything essential to conserve life is property common to the whole of society.  Only the surplus can be individual property and left subject to the enterprise of merchants.  Any mercantile speculation that I make at the cost of the life of my like is not a traffic, but brigandage and fratricide.”

Maximillien Robespierre “The Incorruptible”, December 2, 1792.

Slavoj Žižek on Law

“The illegitimate violence by which law sustains itself must be concealed at any price, because this concealment is the positive condition of the functioning of law.  Law functions only insofar as its subjects are fooled, insofar as they experience the authority of law as ‘authentic and eternal’ and do not realize ‘the truth about the usurpation’.  That is why Kant is forced, in his Metaphysics of Morals, to forbid any question concerning the origins of legal power: it is by means of precisely such questioning that the stain of this illegitimate violence appears which always soils, like original sin, the purity of the reign of law.”

Slavoj Žižek, “The Limits of the Semiotic Approach to Psychoanalysis,” from Psychoanalysis and… (Feldstein and Sussman, eds., Routledge 1990).

See also, Karl Marx, The 18th Brumaire of Louis Napoleon (1852) (“Historical tradition gave rise to the French peasants’ belief in the miracle that a man named Napoleon would bring all glory back to them. And there turned up an individual who claims to be that man because he bears the name Napoleon, in consequence of the Code Napoleon, which decrees: ‘Inquiry into paternity is forbidden.’ After a twenty-year vagabondage and a series of grotesque adventures the legend is consummated, and the man becomes Emperor of the French. The fixed idea of the nephew was realized because it coincided with the fixed idea of the most numerous class of the French people.” [This refers to Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte, who was rumored to have been an illegitimate son]) and Walter Bagehot, in The English Constitution and Other Essays (“[The British monarchy:] Its mystery is its life. We must not let in daylight upon magic. We must not bring the Queen into the combat of politics, or she will cease to be reverenced by all combatants.”) and David Hume, Essays, Moral, Political and Literary, Part II, Essay XII “Of the Original Contract” (1758) (“Yet reason tells us, that there is no property in durable objects, such as lands or houses, when carefully examined in passing from hand to hand, but must, in some period, have been founded on fraud and injustice.”)