How to react to celebrity academic Slavoj Žižek? You could see him as a wild-eyed visionary and grow infatuated with his powerful-sounding ideas about power, violence, cinema, psychoanalysis, and perversion. Or you could see him as a Pied Piper for delusional graduate students and grow enraged at his perpetuation of fashionable nonsense. But you’d do best, I would argue, to take him simply as a source of entertainment. How could you do otherwise, watching the above clip from Astra Taylor’s documentary Žižek! (previously featured on Open Culture here)? In these three minutes, the sweating Sublime Object of Ideology author gives us a tour of his pad, spending much time and excitement on his kitchen repurposed as a closet: clothes and sheets in the cupboards, socks in the drawers. “I am a narcissist. I keep everything,” he pronounces, having moved onto the shelves and shelves of his own work, from the pamphlets of his “dissident days” to his latest books in Japanese translation.
But it’s his poster of Josef Stalin that really draws your attention — just as Žižek meant it to. If he didn’t, he wouldn’t have hung it in his entryway, making it the first sight every guest gets of his home. Here he describes it not as a proclamation of Stalinism, exactly, but as — in line with everything else he does — a provocation. “This is just for people who come to be shocked and hopefully to get out,” he explains. “My big worry is not to be ignored, but to be accepted. Of course, it’s not that I’m simply a Stalinist. That would be crazy, tasteless, and so on. But obviously there is something in it that it’s not simply a joke. When I say the only change is that the left appropriates fascism and so on, it’s not a cheap joke. The point is to avoid the trap of standard liberal oppositions: freedom versus totalitarian order, and so on, to rehabilitate notions of discipline, collective order, subordination, sacrifice, all that. I don’t think this is inherently fascist.”