Slavoj Žižek Responds to Noam Chomsky: ‘I Don’t Know a Guy Who Was So Often Empirically Wrong’


Ear­li­er this month we post­ed an excerpt from an inter­view in which lin­guist Noam Chom­sky slams the Sloven­ian philoso­pher and cul­tur­al crit­ic Slavoj Žižek, along with the late French the­o­rists Jacques Lacan and Jacques Der­ri­da, for cloak­ing triv­ial ideas in obscure and inflat­ed lan­guage to make them seem pro­found.

“There’s no ‘the­o­ry’ in any of this stuff,” Chom­sky says to an inter­view­er who had asked him about the three con­ti­nen­tal thinkers, “not in the sense of the­o­ry that any­one is famil­iar with in the sci­ences or any oth­er seri­ous field. Try to find in all of the work you men­tioned some prin­ci­ples from which you can deduce con­clu­sions, empir­i­cal­ly testable propo­si­tions where it all goes beyond the lev­el of some­thing you can explain in five min­utes to a twelve-year-old. See if you can find that when the fan­cy words are decod­ed. I can’t. So I’m not inter­est­ed in that kind of pos­tur­ing. Žižek is an extreme exam­ple of it.”

Chom­sky’s remarks sparked a heat­ed debate on Open Cul­ture and else­where. Many read­ers applaud­ed Chom­sky; oth­ers said he just did­n’t get it. On Fri­day, Žižek addressed some of Chom­sky’s crit­i­cisms dur­ing a pan­el dis­cus­sion with a group of col­leagues at the Birk­beck Insti­tute for the Human­i­ties in Lon­don:

Žižek’s remarks about Chom­sky don’t appear until about the one-hour, 30-minute mark, but Sam Bur­gum, a PhD stu­dent at the Uni­ver­si­ty of York, has tran­scribed the per­ti­nent state­ments and post­ed them on his site, EsJayBe. Here are the key pas­sages:

What is that about, again, the acad­e­my and Chom­sky and so on? Well with all deep respect that I do have for Chom­sky, my first point is that Chom­sky, who always empha­sizes how one has to be empir­i­cal, accu­rate, not just some crazy Lacan­ian spec­u­la­tions and so on… well I don’t think I know a guy who was so often empir­i­cal­ly wrong in his descrip­tions in his what­ev­er! Let’s look… I remem­ber when he defend­ed this demon­stra­tion of Khmer Rouge. And he wrote a cou­ple of texts claim­ing: No, this is West­ern pro­pa­gan­da. Khmer Rouge are not as hor­ri­ble as that.” And when lat­er he was com­pelled to admit that Khmer Rouge were not the nicest guys in the Uni­verse and so on, his defense was quite shock­ing for me. It was that “No, with the data that we had at that point, I was right. At that point we did­n’t yet know enough, so… you know.” But I total­ly reject this line of rea­son­ing.

For exam­ple, con­cern­ing Stal­in­ism. The point is not that you have to know, you have pho­to evi­dence of gulag or what­ev­er. My God you just have to lis­ten to the pub­lic dis­course of Stal­in­ism, of Khmer Rouge, to get it that some­thing ter­ri­fy­ing­ly patho­log­i­cal is going on there. For exam­ple, Khmer Rouge: Even if we have no data about their pris­ons and so on, isn’t it in a per­verse way almost fas­ci­nat­ing to have a regime which in the first two years (’75 to ’77) behaved towards itself, treat­ed itself, as ille­gal? You know the regime was name­less. It was called “Angka,” an orga­ni­za­tion — not com­mu­nist par­ty of Cam­bo­dia — an orga­ni­za­tion. Lead­ers were name­less. If you ask “Who is my leader?” your head was chopped off imme­di­ate­ly and so on.

Okay, next point about Chom­sky, you know the con­se­quence of this atti­tude of his empir­i­cal and so on — and that’s my basic dif­fer­ence with him — and pre­cise­ly Corey Robin­son and some oth­er peo­ple talk­ing with him recent­ly con­firmed this to me. His idea is today that cyn­i­cism of those in pow­er is so open that we don’t need any cri­tique of ide­ol­o­gy, you reach symp­to­mati­cal­ly between the lines, every­thing is cyn­i­cal­ly open­ly admit­ted. We just have to bring out the facts of peo­ple. Like “This com­pa­ny is prof­it­ing in Iraq” and so on and so on. Here I vio­lent­ly dis­agree.

First, more than ever today, our dai­ly life is ide­ol­o­gy. how can you doubt ide­ol­o­gy when rec­nt­ly I think Paul Krug­man pub­lished a rel­a­tive­ly good text where he demon­strat­ed how this idea of aus­ter­i­ty, this is not even good bour­geois eco­nom­ic the­o­ry! It’s a kind of a pri­mor­dial, com­mon-sense mag­i­cal think­ing when you con­front a cri­sis, “Oh, we must have done some­thing wrong, we spent too much so let’s econ­o­mize and so on and so on.”

My sec­ond point, cyn­i­cists are those who are most prone to fall into illu­sions. Cyn­i­cists are not peo­ple who see things the way they real­ly are and so on. Think about 2008 and the ongo­ing finan­cial cri­sis. It was not cooked up in some crazy wel­fare state; social democ­rats who are spend­ing too much. The cri­sis explod­ed because of activ­i­ty of those oth­er cyn­i­cists who pre­cise­ly thought “screw human rights, screw dig­ni­ty, all that maters is,” and so on and so on.

So as this “prob­lem” of are we study­ing the facts enough I claim emphat­i­cal­ly more than ever “no” today. And as to pop­u­lar­i­ty, I get a lit­tle bit annoyed with this idea that we with our deep sophisms are real­ly hege­mon­ic in the human­i­ties. Are peo­ple crazy? I mean we are always mar­gin­al. No, what is for me real aca­d­e­m­ic hege­mo­ny: it’s bru­tal. Who can get aca­d­e­m­ic posts? Who can get grants, foun­da­tions and so on? We are total­ly mar­gin­al­ized here. I mean look at my posi­tion: “Oh yeah, you are a mega-star in Unit­ed States.” Well, I would like to be because I would like pow­er to bru­tal­ly use it! But I am far from that. I react so like this because a cou­ple of days ago I got a let­ter from a friend in Unit­ed States for whom I wrote a let­ter of rec­om­men­da­tion, and he told me “I did­n’t get the job, not in spite of your let­ter but because of your let­ter!” He had a spy in the com­mit­tee and this spy told him “You almost got it, but then some­body says “Oh, if Žižek rec­om­mends him it must be some­thing ter­ri­bly wrong with him.”

So I claim that all these “how pop­u­lar we are” is real­ly a mask of… remem­ber the large major­i­ty of acad­e­mia are these gray either cog­ni­tivists or his­to­ri­ans blah blah… and you don’t see them but they are the pow­er. They are the pow­er. On the oth­er hand, why are they in pow­er wor­ried? Because you know… don’t exag­ger­ate this left­ist para­noia idea that  “we can all be recu­per­at­ed” and so on and so on. No! I still quite naive­ly believe in the effi­cien­cy of the­o­ret­i­cal think­ing. It’s not as sim­ple as to recu­per­ate every­thing in. But you know there are dif­fer­ent strate­gies of how to con­tain us. I must say that I maybe am not inno­cent in this, because peo­ple like to say about me, “Oh, go and lis­ten to him, he is an amus­ing clown blah blah blah.” This is anoth­er way to say “Don’t take it seri­ous­ly.”

via Par­tial­ly Exam­ined Life

Relat­ed con­tent:

Noam Chom­sky Slams Žižek and Lacan: Emp­ty ‘Pos­tur­ing’

Noam Chom­sky Calls Post­mod­ern Cri­tiques of Sci­ence Over-Inflat­ed ‘Poly­syl­lab­ic Tru­isms’

John Sear­le on Fou­cault and the Obscu­ran­tism in French Phi­los­o­phy

Phi­los­o­phy with a South­ern Drawl: Rick Rod­er­ick Teach­es Der­ri­da, Fou­cault, Sartre and Oth­ers

Down­load 90 Free Phi­los­o­phy Cours­es and Start Liv­ing the Exam­ined Life

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  • John Conolley says:

    It’s true that Chom­sky was wrong way more than he should have been, but that does­n’t make Zizek, Lacan, and Der­ri­da right. And I have to say I’m not impress by Zizek’s abil­i­ty to pull togeth­er a sen­tence when he needs one.

  • Jack says:

    Lacan is so inten­tion­al­ly obscure that Chom­sky’s crit­i­cism for many prac­ti­cal pur­pos­es is true. But it’s weird/nonsensical when applied to Zizek as one rea­son he’s so pop­u­lar is that he explains Lacan’s insights clear­ly. Has Chom­sky actu­al­ly read Zizek?

  • Sam Burgum says:

    Thanks for the re-post :)

  • Poyâ Pâkzâd (@PoyaPakzad) says:

    For those inter­est­ed in the facts and details behind Zizeks recy­cled slan­der regard­ing Khmer Rouge, I rec­om­mend Robert Barsky’s book “The Chom­sky Effect” pp. 94–104.

  • Od says:

    I find it rather depress­ing to see two bril­liant minds like Chom­sky and Zizek, who real­ly see the big­ger glob­al pic­ture and in my opin­ion are rel­a­tive­ly on the same page in many sub­jects, argu­ing about each oth­ers approach like babies. I did not expect this from them and it sur­pris­es me. Both approach­es have a lot to con­tribute in dif­fer­ent ways and are use­ful in dif­fer­ent sit­u­a­tions. Instead of wast­ing time to find their dif­fer­ences, they could use it to find com­mon ground. After all they are fight­ing for the same cause and against the same pow­er struc­tures. Such a shame.

  • Dan McGuire says:

    “The pol­i­tics of the uni­ver­si­ty are so intense because the stakes are so low” — Sayre

  • Ryosuke Yokoe says:

    Chom­sky’s remark seemed to be a gen­er­al cri­tique of some branch­es of post­mod­ernism. He was quite harsh towards Der­ri­da and his Decon­struc­tion­ism, and as we all know he does not like Lacan at all.

  • V says:

    Great except nei­ther Zizek nor Lacan are post­mod­ernists, Zizek is about as anti-post­mod­ern as it gets

  • Ed says:

    “For those inter­est­ed in the facts and details behind Zizeks recy­cled slan­der regard­ing Khmer Rouge, I rec­om­mend Robert Barsky’s book “The Chom­sky Effect” pp. 94–104.”

    Well, you could do that. Or you could do the ’empir­i­cal’ thing and read what Chom­sky and Edward Her­man actu­al­ly wrote at the time. There was a piece in the Nation in 1977 which was­n’t too bad, although it does­n’t stand up very well in hind­sight; they were skep­ti­cal about the reports of atroc­i­ties in Cam­bo­dia, but did­n’t dis­miss them out of hand. Then there was their book ‘After The Cat­a­clysm’, which appeared some time AFTER the Khmer Rouge were eject­ed from pow­er, and the mass graves were already being uncov­ered. The chap­ter on Cam­bo­dia leaned much, much more heav­i­ly towards skep­ti­cism; it’s very dodgy stuff. Read it if you don’t believe me.

    Now there are a few things that should be said to con­tex­tu­alise it. First of all, reports of KR atroc­i­ties were being used from 1975 onwards to try and legit­imise the US wars in Indo-Chi­na in hind­sight; claims were also being made that a sim­i­lar blood­bath was going on in south Viet­nam, which def­i­nite­ly was­n’t the case. So it’s under­stand­able that Chom­sky and Her­man should have react­ed against that.

    Sec­ond­ly, most of the peo­ple who have used Cam­bo­dia as a stick to beat Chom­sky with since 1979 are estab­lish­ment intel­lec­tu­als in the US or the UK who sup­port Wash­ing­ton’s for­eign pol­i­cy; they have absolute­ly no moral author­i­ty on the sub­ject, hav­ing sup­port­ed US war crimes in Indo-Chi­na (and telling­ly, for all the time they spend denounc­ing Chom­sky for what he wrote about the Khmer Rouge, they nev­er say any­thing about the active, mate­r­i­al sup­port that the US and the UK gave to Pol Pot after 1979; in fact they active­ly praise Rea­gan and Thatch­er for their Cam­bo­dia pol­i­cy in the 80s, the hypocrisy is so great it’s hard not to vom­it).

    And third­ly, what Chom­sky and Her­man wrote on the sub­ject had no prac­ti­cal impact; the Nation arti­cle was­n’t great but it was­n’t ter­ri­ble either, and ‘After The Cat­a­clysm’ appeared after the Viet­namese army had eject­ed Pol Pot from pow­er.

    But dis­miss­ing what Zizek said as a ‘recy­cled slan­der’ just won’t wash. He’s basi­cal­ly right about this; even if you did­n’t know the full sto­ry about what was hap­pen­ing in Cam­bo­dia from 1975–1978 (and nobody did at the time), the ‘pub­lic dis­course’ of the Khmer Rouge should have been very, very trou­bling. Now I think Zizek is exag­ger­at­ing when he talks about Chom­sky being wrong more often than any­one else (and I doubt that state­ment is meant to be tak­en lit­er­al­ly). But he has been wrong about a few things, and he seems to be very reluc­tant to admit that he got some­thing wrong; he’s nev­er said that he was wrong about Cam­bo­dia, he’s nev­er said that he was wrong about Robert Fau­ris­son (to avoid mis­un­der­stand­ing, I don’t believe for a moment that Chom­sky endors­es Holo­caust denial; but he showed poor judge­ment in that affair). So I can under­stand why Zizek, hav­ing essen­tial­ly been brand­ed a char­la­tan by Chom­sky, would point out that Chom­sky’s own empiri­cism is not exact­ly beyond reproach.

  • Kate @Od says:

    I would­n’t con­sid­er a dis­cus­sion such as the one that is going on between Chom­sky and Zizek to be a shame; What is the ben­e­fit of avoid­ing dis­agree­ment with each oth­er, on the premis­es of par­tial con­ge­nial­i­ty. If we were to con­firm how much we agree with each oth­er, because we agree on most things, we would not pro­voke deep­er thought on those issues that remain debat­able. Peo­ple, even (or per­haps espe­cial­ly) those with great minds, will mea­sure their ego’s against each oth­er; by lay­ing bear each oth­ers weak­ness­es both are forced to reex­am­ine and argue their ways of think­ing; rather than get­ting in the way, it is one of the dri­ving forces of intel­lec­tu­al activ­i­ty.

  • Kresling says:

    The best sup­port for Chom­sky’s accu­sa­tion that Zizek is inco­her­ent is Zizek’s defense.

  • Alp Eren Topal says:

    Sad­ly Zizek is pulling a straw man here. Chom­sky did not claim that Zizek and oth­ers were hege­mon­ic in the acad­e­mia, he sim­ply accused them of show­man­ship and obscu­ran­tism.

    What’s more, for a longer time than Zizek, Chom­sky him­self has been sub­ject to the ridi­cul­ing and hos­tile atti­tude of which Zizek com­plains.

  • Volition says:

    ‘I Don’t Know a Guy Who Was So Often Empir­i­cal­ly Wrong’

    Is Slavoj being empir­i­cal with his state­ment?


  • Teruyuki Harada says:

    I rec­om­mend Mr. Zizek to lay out his the­o­ries with words that a twelve-year-old can under­stand. Then we can judge if one, some or all of them make sense and also mat­ter. After all, what’s the point of talk­ing or writ­ing in a man­ner that gives a hard time under­stand­ing to the lis­ten­er or read­er?

    Prof. Chom­sky’s point is fur­ther explained here:

  • TestUserD says:

    This reminds me of what David Bohm had to say about the rift between Ein­stein and Bohr. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, even bril­liant peo­ple often fail to estab­lish a good dia­logue.

  • MidnightOwl says:

    On cam­bo­dia: Chom­sky’s point was that the killing by the Khmer regime was exag­ger­at­ed in the West for polit­i­cal rea­sons. He said reports of mil­lions being killed were much more like­ly to be thou­sands. He also points out that at the same time as that was going on the West­ern backed inter­ven­tion into East Tim­or was killing num­bers prob­a­bly high­er than in Cam­bo­dia at the same time — yet got absolute­ly 0 press cov­er­age at the time. Maybe he was wrong on the num­bers in Cam­bo­dia, (try sug­gest­ing the num­bers were a lot small­er to some­one — they might be inclined to liken you a holo­caust denier, which is a pow­er­ful way to silence some­one), maybe num­bers were high­er, but the polit­i­cal point remains the same. West­ern backed atroc­i­ties — cap­i­tal­ist state crimes — avoid bad press because it is in the inter­est of the own­ers of the press to focus on oth­er things.

  • MidnightOwl says:

    He dis­cuss­es his com­ments on Cam­bo­dia in this if you can find it (sad­ly I can’t remem­ber where it is)

  • Leon says:

    I think for care­ful read­ers what they call the­o­ry in the human­i­ties can be a lot of fun. I don’t see it as a con­spir­a­cy, but kind of like a game. I don’t both­er to tack­le some of the dry texts like But­ler and Spi­vak, or the social jus­tice ones, but Lacan, Der­ri­da, Zizek, those guys actu­al­ly have some inter­est­ing insights and things to say. Sure they are hard to read, but so what, if you don’t like it don’t read it. I don’t know, I like it, it’s an inter­est­ing chal­lenge and a game to me. That’s how I think we should see Con­ti­nen­tal Phi­los­o­phy. As a game. A game played with ideas, and for a thinker, It’s worth giv­ing it a try.

    I think more than any­thing, read­ing Der­ri­da helped me be a bet­ter read­er and crit­i­cal thinker. I found myself “decon­struct­ing” every­thing for a while. It was cool. And Lacan to, though I too think he was prob­a­bly a char­la­tan, he did have some real­ly cool ideas. Lan­guage has agency and all that stuff. I was pre­pared to dis­miss it, but then you have seri­ous sci­en­tist like Richard Dawkins talk­ing about memes, and I thought, that goes along with that very nice­ly. And maybe not in a sci­en­tif­ic sense, but a per­son­al and prac­ti­cal sense, it helps me under­stand life bet­ter. When I say things I don’t mean, when I regur­gi­tate ideas I heard on the inter­net, when I gos­sip. I think, am I using lan­guage? or is it using me? It’s just an inter­est­ing way to look at things, and it has been help­ful at least for me. This is just one of many many exam­ples. Phi­los­o­phy in gen­er­al has helped me to think more than any­thing, but Con­ti­nen­tal Phi­los­o­phy in par­tic­u­lar I think has been the most fun for me.

    I’m just say­ing live and let live. I think there’s enough room for ideas.

  • zoheir says:

    I think ana­lyt­ic tra­di­tion has been full of haughty and igno­rant aca­d­e­m­ic philosophers,From Rus­sel­l’s non-sense about Niet­zsche, to Car­nap about Hei­deg­ger, What quine want­ed to do with Der­ri­da’s degree from Cam­bridge and so on, This real­ly needs a soci­o­log­i­cal study of these philoso­phers to see what is going on with them

  • iman says:

    Yes Dear Slavoj, I agree with you. but i don’t know why you for­got this argu­men­ta­tion when you were talk­ing about Iran: do you remem­ber you said that Ahmadine­jad resist­ing cap­i­tal­ism and rev­o­lu­tion­ary guards in Iran is defend­ing the pro­le­tari­at? then the Green Move­ment hap­pened in 2009 and you were shocked! it was enough to ana­lyze the pub­lic dis­cours­es before that, but you did­n’t. this is a com­mon sick­ness between Euro­pean left­ists, esp when they are Hegelian!

  • Amira says:

    This is a very inter­est­ing inter­ac­tion. My only issue here is that Zizek points at a cou­ple of occa­sions that Chom­sky was either mis­tak­en or pre­sent­ed an unsym­pa­thet­ic view of cer­tain events or peo­ple. What Chom­sky is say­ing is far more damn­ing stat­ing that Zizek’s entire per­sona and method­ol­o­gy is basi­cal­ly, a scam of words. As a chef I would com­pare that to one chef say­ing that anoth­er made a cru­cial error with one dish while the oth­er chef says that the first chef’s entire reper­toire and tech­nique is com­plete­ly flawed, hence taint­ing every dish he cre­ates. I’m not tak­ing sides, just stat­ing that Chom­sky’s accu­sa­tion is far more severe than Zizek’s. I’ve lis­tened to both speak / write and from the first time I heard Zizek, I chuck­led feel­ing that his entire approach is ver­bose and very basic in it’s fun­da­men­tals.

  • stevelaudig says:

    I see no point in ‘engag­ing” zizek as there is noth­ing there to engage. strug­gling for a descrip­tive here… gas­bag? fatu­ous? lame? point­less? bizarro’s answer to ayn rand?

  • Colin says:

    “There’s no ‘the­o­ry’ in any of this stuff,” Chom­sky says to an inter­view­er who had asked him about the three con­ti­nen­tal thinkers, “not in the sense of the­o­ry that any­one is famil­iar with in the sci­ences or any oth­er seri­ous field. Try to find in all of the work you men­tioned some prin­ci­ples from which you can deduce con­clu­sions, empir­i­cal­ly testable propo­si­tions where it all goes beyond the lev­el of some­thing you can explain in five min­utes to a twelve-year-old. See if you can find that when the fan­cy words are decod­ed. I can’t. So I’m not inter­est­ed in that kind of pos­tur­ing. Žižek is an extreme exam­ple of it.”

    Chom­sky’s all about equal­i­ty, but note that it’s appar­ent­ly the ideas at the bot­tom of con­ti­nen­tal obscu­ri­tanism which are wide­ly acces­si­ble (once “decod­ed” by the kind man) to 12 year olds, where­as those who are “famil­iar with the sci­ences and oth­er seri­ous fields,” what­ev­er they’re up to in their Man­darin research insti­tutes… well, I guess you just have to be an *ini­ti­ate* to get that stuff. There’s a Freudi­an term which quite nice­ly cov­ers what’s going on with this state­ment, but, well… ya know…

    Chom­sky is the Hugh Hefn­er of left-wing thinking/politics: just as what Hefn­er is up to was read long ago as being a mere inver­sion of the Amer­i­can Puri­tanism it oth­er­wise rails against, such that it repli­cates many of its core tenets, so Chom­sky’s “anar­chism” is the deploy­ment of Amer­i­can (frankly, reli­gious and thor­ough­ly Protes­tant) Puri­tanism in a polit­i­cal con­text. Lis­ten to the French, Noam: while there’s cer­tain­ly some bull­shit in there, they’ve actu­al­ly advanced in their think­ing about the nature of their rev­o­lu­tion and its rhetoric.

  • Tony says:

    The parts of Žižek’s answer that I found most coher­ent and valu­able were the parts where he lit­er­al­ly said “blah blah” and “blah blah blah.”

  • Ed says:

    “On cam­bo­dia: Chomsky’s point was that the killing by the Khmer regime was exag­ger­at­ed in the West for polit­i­cal rea­sons. He said reports of mil­lions being killed were much more like­ly to be thou­sands. He also points out that at the same time as that was going on the West­ern backed inter­ven­tion into East Tim­or was killing num­bers prob­a­bly high­er than in Cam­bo­dia at the same time – yet got absolute­ly 0 press cov­er­age at the time. Maybe he was wrong on the num­bers in Cam­bo­dia, (try sug­gest­ing the num­bers were a lot small­er to some­one – they might be inclined to liken you a holo­caust denier, which is a pow­er­ful way to silence some­one), maybe num­bers were high­er, but the polit­i­cal point remains the same. West­ern backed atroc­i­ties – cap­i­tal­ist state crimes – avoid bad press because it is in the inter­est of the own­ers of the press to focus on oth­er things.”

    No, sor­ry, this just isn’t true — you need to read what Chom­sky actu­al­ly wrote at the time, not what he said much lat­er. He was­n’t just mak­ing a com­par­i­son with East Tim­or. He was­n’t mak­ing a point about the west­ern media. He was putting for­ward a set of asser­tions about what had been hap­pen­ing in Cam­bo­dia under Pol Pot, in a book that was pub­lished some time after the Khmer Rouge were eject­ed from pow­er. Read the book, don’t just take Chom­sky’s ex post fac­to sum­ma­ry of its con­tents at face val­ue.

  • Colin says:


    The parts of Žižek’s answer that I found most coher­ent and valu­able were the parts where he lit­er­al­ly said “blah blah” and “blah blah blah.”

    If that’s the case, then how did you have the intel­lec­tu­al where-with-all to find your way to this post in the first place? I mean, if you can’t under­stand what Zizek was say­ing, and the val­ue that it has, sure­ly you don’t know how to oper­ate a com­put­er? It’s beyond you, right? Did your dad­dy sit you down in front of the screen as a way of dis­tract­ing you while he was doing his tax return or some­thing?

  • Felipe G. Nievinski says:

    Žižek did­n’t write his state­ments, they were tran­scribed from an oral inter­view.

  • Jack says:

    Chom­sky observes the com­plex empir­i­cal real­i­ty, spots pat­terns and ten­den­cies, and explains them as the result of some under­ly­ing mech­a­nism (often the log­ic of cap­i­tal accu­mu­la­tion or the state’s unend­ing quest to pre­serve its own pow­er).

    In this sense, Chom­sky is a mate­ri­al­ist and a real­ist. How­ev­er, he nev­er states this in terms of his polit­i­cal writ­ings, which some­times makes his stand­point unclear. If he was a social sci­en­tist by trade I think he would be forced to state his the­o­ret­i­cal ground­ings more explic­it­ly.

    The claim that he is more empir­i­cal­ly wrong than any­one Zizek knows might be because Zizek sur­rounds him­self with oth­er psy­cho­an­a­lyt­ic bull­shit-magi­cians who nev­er dare look at the empir­ics. Chom­sky is one of the most empir­i­cal­ly rig­or­ous aca­d­e­mics I have ever read — although no doubt he has been wrong and tends to be too stub­born to admit it.

    Ulti­mate­ly, Chom­sky’s polit­i­cal writ­ings are incred­i­bly rich and insight­ful — if some­what con­fus­ing because of his rejec­tion of the­o­ret­i­cal ques­tions. This is prob­a­bly large­ly due to the moral urgency in his work and his desire to clear­ly demon­strate unjus­tice to as wide an audi­ence as pos­si­ble, as quick­ly as pos­si­ble. In con­trast, Zizek avoids empir­i­cal ques­tions and dives head­long into ‘the­o­ry’ — attempt­ing to wed Marx­ism with psy­cho­analy­sis, and in the process total­ly throw­ing any sem­blance of Marx­ism in his work. Not only this, but he veils what is already bull­shit in even more obscu­ri­ty, before sprin­kling on some plat­i­tu­di­nal left-wing slo­gans that will perk the activists’ ears with­out offer­ing any sub­stan­tive expla­na­tion.

  • Bill Haywood says:

    Link to the orig­i­nal Chom­sky arti­cle that all the fuss is based on:‑news/1365869/posts

  • antalescu says:

    Zizek has­n’t said one sin­gle sci­en­tif­ic fact or the­o­ry when Chom­sky was empir­i­cal­ly wrong…All these words for noth­ing :roll:

  • Mike Springer says:

    Zizek’s implied argu­ment seems to be this:

    Some of Chom­sky’s propo­si­tions have been fal­si­fied. There­fore, we should pay no atten­tion to Chom­sky’s crit­i­cism of those who make unfal­si­fi­able propo­si­tions.

    Is that a good argu­ment?

  • Amira says:

    Well Mike, it’s cer­tain­ly a log­i­cal fal­la­cy.. .It does­n’t mean Zizek’s wrong, it just means that this can­not be used as an argu­ment to jus­ti­fy the con­clu­sion.

  • Angela Brown says:

    r.e. the 12 yr olds .… is that like a “no child left behind” ide­ol­o­gy, a form of Amer­i­can Intel­lec­tu­al­ism for the under­priv­i­leged amer­i­can adult? r.e. KR, it would be inter­est­ing to draw some par­al­lels with Syr­ia at this moment. Oth­er­wise what is the point in talk­ing about the past if not to draw rel­e­vance to cur­rent sit­u­a­tions.

  • Poyâ Pâkzâd (@PoyaPakzad) says:

    i) “you could do the ‘empir­i­cal’ thing and read what Chom­sky and Edward Her­man actu­al­ly wrote at the time.”
    ii)“even if you didn’t know the full sto­ry about what was hap­pen­ing in Cam­bo­dia from 1975–1978 (and nobody did at the time), the ‘pub­lic dis­course’ of the Khmer Rouge should have been very, very trou­bling.”

    I appre­ci­ate your con­tex­tu­al­iza­tion, and I cer­tain­ly agree with both (i) and (ii). Those inter­est­ed in the details should read the book, and if fur­ther inter­est­ed, also read the sub­se­quent com­men­tary and let­ters, such as the one which I sug­gest­ed, since it con­tains numer­ous ref­er­ences.

    The book is very inter­est­ing and its cen­tral the­sis — which is not about Cam­bo­dia per se — is force­ful­ly argued. It real­ly does deserve read­ing for its oth­er con­tents oth­er than Cam­bo­dia (which have hard­ly been reviewed, in fact most­ly ignored in the streams of sub­se­quent com­men­tary). The sec­tion on Cam­bo­dia, in which they lay out to expose media pro­pa­gan­da con­tains glar­ing errors and fun­da­men­tal mis­in­ter­pre­ta­tions of Khmer Rouge pro­grammes, which were point­ed out at the time and as in the case of Zizek, end­less­ly recy­cled for slan­der (not out of any love for facts or Cam­bo­di­an his­to­ry.).

    But as Serge Thion point­ed out in his defense of Chom­sky in Encounter 1980, accu­rate­ly in my opin­ion: “CHOMSKY DOES NOT WRITE ON CAMBODIA. He writes on Amer­i­ca, or more broad­ly on the West­ern intel­li­gentsia and the way it describes the actu­al sequence of events in Cam­bo­dia. He nev­er indulges, as I do, in ana­lyz­ing them. By using inter­nal evi­dence, he demon­strates, in my view quite con­vinc­ing­ly, that the West­ern press is guilty of gross manip­u­la­tions and dis­tor­tions of its own basic infor­ma­tion, that its mes­sage is mod­eled inside a pain­less ide­o­log­i­cal frame­work.”

    That is basi­cal­ly what Chom­sky (with­out Her­man) set out to do since his first book on pol­i­tics, ‘Amer­i­can Pow­er and the New Man­darins’. One can only spec­u­late what the exact divi­sion of labour between Her­man and Chom­sky was when writ­ing the book.

    Yet, this Chom­skyan endeav­our is also the impres­sion you get from read­ing After the Cat­a­clysm. In it they write:

    “…in the case of Cam­bo­dia, there is no dif­fi­cul­ty in doc­u­ment­ing major atroc­i­ties and oppres­sion, pri­mar­i­ly from the reports of refugees, since Cam­bo­dia has been almost entire­ly closed to the West since the war’s end. One might imag­ine that in the Unit­ed States, which bears a major respon­si­bil­i­ty for what Fran­cois Pon­chaud calls “the cal­vary [i.e. cru­ci­fix­ion] of a peo­ple,” report­ing and dis­cus­sion would be tinged with guilt and regret. That has rarely been the case, how­ev­er. The U.S. role and respon­si­bil­i­ty have been quick­ly for­got­ten or even explic­it­ly denied as the mills of the pro­pa­gan­da machine grind away… The record of atroc­i­ties in Cam­bo­dia is sub­stan­tial and often grue­some, but it has by no means sat­is­fied the require­ments of West­ern pro­pa­gan­dists, who must labor to shift the blame for the tor­ment of Indochi­na to the vic­tims of France and the Unit­ed States. Con­se­quent­ly, there has been exten­sive fab­ri­ca­tion of evi­dence, a tide that is not stemmed even by repeat­ed expo­sure… The cov­er­age of real and fab­ri­cat­ed atroc­i­ties in Cam­bo­dia also stands in dra­mat­ic con­trast to the silence with regard to atroc­i­ties com­pa­ra­ble in scale with­in U.S. domains — Tim­or, for exam­ple… As in the oth­er cas­es dis­cussed, our pri­ma­ry con­cern here is not to estab­lish the facts with regard to post­war Indochi­na, but rather to inves­ti­gate their refrac­tion through the prism of West­ern ide­ol­o­gy, a very dif­fer­ent task.”

  • Radek Tanski says:

    I think that Chom­sky sells too many books writ­ten for the poor to be neu­tral.

    I was so dis­ap­point­ed when this guy who is sup­posed to under­stand the big pic­ture could­n’t be both­er with eco­nom­ics the moment it did­n’t agree with his social activism.


  • Poyâ Pâkzâd (@PoyaPakzad) says:

    On a dif­fer­ent but rel­e­vant note, Chom­sky does­n’t equate his polit­i­cal analy­ses or crit­i­cisms, or his empir­i­cal fact-gath­er­ing in this regard, with either “sci­ence”, “the­o­ry” or “phi­los­o­phy” — unlike Zizek. What Chom­sky has been say­ing for decades, is that far reach­ing extrap­o­la­tions about soci­ety from the dis­ap­pear­ing drops of knowl­edge attained in the sci­ences, are unwar­rant­ed.

  • Rylan Chinnock says:

    Every­one loves crit­i­ciz­ing the obscure 20th cen­tu­ry thinkers like Der­ri­da, Zizek, Lacan, Hei­deg­ger, etc. But just to dis­miss them off­hand with­out giv­ing a care­ful account of what they are actu­al­ly try­ing to say — in short, to give them a sym­pa­thet­ic read­ing — proves that one is a fool the moment one opens one’s mouth. Noth­ing is eas­i­er to crit­i­cize some­one for being obscure — since one can act as if they are real­ly not say­ing any­thing at all, one there­fore does­n’t have to pro­vide a sub­stan­tive cri­tique of any­thing! After all, there is noth­ing to cri­tique, because they aren’t even say­ing any­thing, so one can just dis­miss them and then every­one will applaud and one will look very clever and obvi­ous­ly supe­ri­or to who­ev­er one hap­pens to be crit­i­ciz­ing.

  • rvbranham says:

    chom­sky’s one to talk about lack of sci­en­tif­ic rigour… his lin­guis­tic the­o­ries are not par­tic­u­lar­ly held in high esteem amongst lin­guists these days.

  • Dennis Eder says:

    You do a dis­ser­vice to your read­ers when you call the ‘tran­script of what Zizek a response to Chom­sky’s cri­tique, or at least imply that’s what it is. His com­ments on Chom­sky are real­ly not at all rel­e­vant to Chom­sky’s points. The impli­ca­tion is that there is a ‘debate ’ here, and there is not.
    Zizek strikes out against Chom­sky based on some pure­ly artic­u­lat­ed, out of con­text crit­i­cism of com­ments Chom­sky made more than 20 years ago. It is a sil­ly ad hominem attack , not a response to a cri­tique. Please post this on your site for me, and for the ben­e­fit of your many read­ers. His response, only serves to make Chom­sky’s case even stronger, that ‘this emper­or has no clothes.”
    Den­nis Eder ‑Meri­da Yucatan Mex­i­co.

  • Tony says:

    @Colin: “If that’s the case, then how did you have the intel­lec­tu­al where-with-all to find your way to this post in the first place? I mean, if you can’t under­stand what Zizek was say­ing,” I’m not say­ing I did­n’t under­stand it. After all, how would I know if I under­stood it? How would you? The crude colours and shapes that pop up in your mind, devoid of propo­si­tion­al con­tent, may have noth­ing to do with the crude colours and shapes that popped into Zizek’s mind when he formed these (sort-of) sen­tences.

  • Mr. Steiner says:

    @Poyâ Pâkzâd

    Just so you know, cit­ing Serge Thion in Chom­sky’s defense is not exact­ly unim­peach­able; Thion was a Holo­caust denier.
    Regard­ing Chom­sky’s writ­ings on Cam­bo­dia, it is nei­ther as bad nor good as peo­ple make it out to be. In some ways, Chom­sky and Her­mann did an admirable job in sift­ing through a myr­i­ad of media dis­tor­tions. On the oth­er hand,I think the analy­sis was some­what myopic in light of the true depths of the atroc­i­ties (which were then known by the time of After the Cat­a­clysm). One wide­ly dis­trib­uted cri­tique of Chom­sky on Cam­bo­dia is by Bruce Sharp, and can be found here:
    My response, here (Howard Bloom post):

  • min says:

    again with this 12 year old under­stand­ing bull­shit?

    would the good com­mon lan­guage empiri­cists in the room please explain how a dig­i­tal op-amp log­ic gate works?

    in lan­guage that a 12 year old can under­stand please.

  • Antew says:

    Just to be obscure … Evok­ing empiri­cism, this goes to Chom­sky as well as Zizek, (and the few com­men­ta­tors here) to explain, prove, or ascer­tain obscu­ran­tism in a giv­en thinker’s work or thought is in itself a sort of philo­soph­i­cal obscu­ran­tism. Why? because his­tor­i­cal­ly we have plen­ty of exam­ples where empiri­cism has brought about the most obscure con­clu­sions in social, polit­i­cal and even sci­en­tif­ic fields. So what remains in this “dia­logue” between the Zizek camp and the Chom­sky camp seems the age old strug­gle of own­er­ship of the “truth.” ” I know the truth” as we often claim. Iron­i­cal­ly, the Con­ti­nen­tals were try­ing to stay away of this claim of truth. Is that obscure enough …

  • Poyâ Pâkzâd (@PoyaPakzad) says:

    Thx Mr. Stein­er,
    That’s very embar­ras­ing. I did­n’t know he was a Holo­caust denier. Thanks for the link, and for point­ing that out.

  • E. Byron Nelson says:

    I side with Chom­sky here, even though I think of the three Der­ri­da deserves some atten­tion from ana­lyt­ic philoso­phers, as his ideas when decod­ed from his albeit unnec­es­sar­i­ly jar­gon-heavy writ­ings are not triv­ial or untestable/unapplicable– unlike Zizek. Chom­sky is an old grouch, he’s out of touch, and I very much doubt he has him­self done the thor­ough-going, in depth research need­ed to make such sweep­ing state­ments with author­i­ty, but at least his state­ments are ratio­nal, coher­ent, and present a pos­si­bly ver­i­fi­able posi­tion; more impor­tant­ly, I would feel inclined to defend any­one against the juve­nile, sub-lit­er­ate rhetoric of Zizek. Zizek demon­strates a fun­da­men­tal mis­un­der­stand­ing of the sci­en­tif­ic method and of basic philo­soph­i­cal log­ic when he attacks par­tic­u­lar instances in which Chom­sky has made mis­takes (if you can’t see what’s wrong with this, may I sug­gest a good Log­ic 101 course?), not to men­tion his usu­al lack of basic read­ing and lis­ten­ing skills when respond­ing to any argu­ment or text. What a drunk­en blow hard!

  • Martin says:

    Let me say what I think about Zizek’s answer.

    First of all, I state my agree­ment with Zizek: Chom­sky is absolute­ly blind to any the­o­ry that can be for­mu­lat­ed with total inde­pen­dence from empir­i­cal data; and there is lot of it, lot of the­o­ry free from “empir­i­cal evi­dence”. For exam­ple, not only the psy­cho­an­a­lyt­ic the­o­ry of the Uncon­cious, but also all the struc­tural­ist frame of the­o­ries, includ­ing Marx­ism. The laws of the sig­ni­fi­ca­tion (sig­ni­fi­er, sub­jec­tiv­i­ty pro­duc­tion, val­ue of com­modi­ties, etc.) obey to dif­fer­ent rules than the laws of physics (or, what under the appoach of a pos­i­tivist wiew in social sci­ences can be called “method­olog­i­cal indi­vid­u­al­ism”).

    The prob­lem here is that we can not solve the con­flict into the same com­mon ground, because between pos­i­tivism and struc­tural­ism there isn’t any com­mon ground in which the dif­fer­ences can be elim­i­nat­ed. So, this is the prob­lem ‑I think- with the reply of Zizek to the cri­tiques of Chom­sky.

    Zizek says “ok, dude… this guy ‑who attacks me on the basis of the fact that my work is not empir­i­cal­ly found­ed- is him­self EMPIRICALLY WRONG many times…”

    I think that this one is worst pos­si­ble answer that Zizek could have offered !!! Indeed, Zizek gave him the wrong reply. Sup­pose now that Chom­sky would have nev­er been “empir­i­cal­ly wrong” in his analy­sis… And then, what? Would have this fact proved then that Chom­sky is right in his empirist approach and Zizek (in his struc­tural­ist one) is wrong?

    The right answer from Zizek to Chom­sky should have been then the fol­low one: “Dear Mr. Chom­sky, please notice that, EVEN IF YOU WOULD HAVE ALWAYS BEEN EMPIRICALLY ADEQUATE AND NEVER WRONG IN THE EVALUATION OF THE DATES, your empir­i­cal approach is still wrong…

    Because for the struc­tural­ist think­ing all empir­i­cal data nev­er has a val­ue for itself, but is no more than the effect of the struc­ture. On the oth­er hand, as the struc­ture is not of any empir­i­cal nature, then it can only be known through its effects…

    And, as Zizek did not answer this, the reply of Chom­sky was he log­i­cal one: “Mr. Zizek, I was­n’t wrong, only my data was wrong or insuf­fi­cient… So, under that sit­u­a­tion, my con­clu­sion had no choice but being wrong, BUT NEVER MY METHOD…”

    Chom­sky: 1
    Zizek: 0

  • Martin says:

    *fol­low one = fol­low­ing one

  • ena says:

    If empiri­cism has ever brought about the “most obscure con­clu­sions in social, polit­i­cal and even sci­en­tif­ic fields”, it is because it was bad empiri­cism. Bad empiri­cism and bad sci­ence equals the most obfus­ca­to­ry and emp­ty ver­bose phi­los­o­phy, or any oth­er rhetoric or ide­ol­o­gy for that mat­ter — for rea­son of con­fu­sion and obfus­ca­tion of the very minds involved, if not out­right insin­cer­i­ty and fraud­u­lence as means to a desired end.

  • Sutheeshna babu says:

    Whether empirism & num­bers mat­ters beyond cer­tain points in under­stand­ing the phe­nom­e­non and process­es is a mat­ter of debate we don’t know for how long. It is both yes and no at the same time depend­ing on how one approach it. For, we have been suf­fi­cient­ly exposed to it it by now. For, we have seen how it is used and mis­used in defend­ing the inde­fen­si­ble and that is what his­to­ry would tell us. Leave aside ‘hegi­mo­ny” for whose sake a while for argu­ment sake. Does not KR also prove a counter hegi­mon­ic intent against a glob­al­ly oppress­ing regime? Per­haps it does and post-mod­ern de-con­struc­tion would Not suf­fice intel­lac­tu­al rea­son­ing in jus­ti­fy­ing ‘hegi­mo­ny of any nature. To that extend, Chom­sky seems to be reck­on­ing.

  • Atew says:

    Ena, I agree. How­ev­er, mak­ing dis­tinc­tions between good/bad sci­ence and good/bad empiri­cism in a man­ner that per­tains to con­cep­tu­al or philo­soph­i­cal dis­cus­sion rais­es more (per­haps fun­da­men­tal) ques­tions: who is mak­ing the distinction?where does one posi­tion one­self in mak­ing these dis­tinc­tions? what/who val­i­dates these dis­tinc­tions? what oth­er vari­ables are at play in mak­ing these dis­tinc­tions? I don’t think I am ask­ing new ques­tions here but there is no easy way of explain­ing away those con­cerns. What seems to work is resort­ing to one or anoth­er form of ‑ism that will help “the desired” goal of the day! And this requires to “claim some sort of truth” that makes the dis­tinc­tion pos­si­ble. It seems increas­ing­ly accept­able to focus on the desired goal with­out ques­tion­ing if the means used is “insin­cere and/or fraud­u­lent.”

  • Mary Ann says:

    “and so on” — Zlavoj Zizek

  • Dave Kirk says:

    Zizeks key point here is Chom­sky derides the impor­tace of Ide­ol­o­gy as an empiri­cist. Zizeks point isnt just that ide­ol­o­gy mat­ters, but that you cant under­stand the world with­out a under­stand­ing of Ide­ol­o­gy. Hence Chom­sky did­nt have to see the evi­dence of the Killing fields he should have actu­al­ly looked at the ide­ol­o­gy of the Khmer Rouge and should have seen this is were it would lead.

    The lack of Ide­ol­o­gy in what chom­sky advo­cates or in under­stand­ing the world leads him to ignore stuff like Hamas’s anti semi­tism, Cuba’s stal­in­ism, the lack of direc­tion in occu­py or the streg­nth of cap­i­tal­ism as an ide­o­log­i­cal con­cept.

  • Gareth R. says:

    Chom­sky respond­ed today, con­vinc­ing­ly paint­ing Zizek “com­plete­ly in the grip of west­ern pro­pa­gan­da”.

    Con­vinc­ing­ly, because he uses empir­i­cal facts, not pos­tur­ing lan­guage.

  • Gareth R. says:

    Chom­sky also lev­els the quite seri­ous charge that Zizek fab­ri­cat­ed a con­ver­sa­tion with him.

  • kuilu says:

    “Often empir­i­cal­ly wrong” and then ONE vague exam­ple? That’s sup­posed to refute Chom­skys argu­ments about Lacan and Žižek? The rest of Žižeks mum­blings under­line Chom­skys point. Which in itself is off course a propo­si­tion, not a cer­tain­ty. It’s just Chom­skys care­ful use of words and pur­sue of clar­i­ty, that gives some peo­ple allu­sion of cer­tain­ty, when it is only a mat­ter of clar­i­ty.

    Žižek has the same prob­lem as the whole “new left” (Negri, Hardt et al), a des­per­ate need to come up with new trac­tats and idioms, as their coun­ter­part; neo­cons, neoliber­lars, ran­di­ans etc have so sur­pris­ing­ly suc­cess­ful­ly done. But over­tak­ing the debate with anoth­er kind of newspeak only serves van­guard, move­ments elite. In Sovi­et Union there were con­cerns about pub­lish­ing Das Kap­i­tal in Russ­ian, but then they went with it, because of its abstruse philo­soph­i­cal lan­guage — no-one would get, it’s hard even schol­ars today. Bible was kept out of ordi­nary peo­ple with lan­guage bar­ri­er.

    And I, and in some extend I believe Chom­sky, believe that too abstract lan­guage can do harm in two major ways. First it dis­tances the mass­es from the elite, for hier­ar­chi­cal struc­ture this off course is not a prob­lem. Sec­ond­ly, it makes the the­o­ries and argu­ments more open to abuse in inter­pre­ta­tion.

    End­ing with an age­less clas­sic:

  • TonyB. says:

    Ugh, more ether from a pop-psy­chol­o­gist flog­ging a dead phe­nom­e­nol­o­gy.

    .ener­gy sink.

  • Sue says:

    Well this feud reminds me of a pas­sage from an anthol­o­gy I’ve been read­ing:

    “The idea that objec­tive obser­va­tion can be per­formed only by an observ­er total­ly free of sub­jec­tiv­i­ty involves an ide­al of inhu­man puri­ty which we now recog­nise as being, for­tu­nate­ly, unat­tain­able. But the dilem­ma of the sub­jec­tive prac­ti­tion­er of objec­tiv­i­ty per­sists…” (Ursu­la K. Le Guin)

    Both Chom­sky and Zizek have been wrong because of the lim­its of their sub­jec­tiv­i­ty, which is not a great fault, as we all are prey to this. That said this feud makes sense to me as a means of address­ing the lim­i­ta­tions of our empiri­cism and pow­er of analy­sis.

  • Bahram Mobasheri, PhD says:

    Mr.Žižek’s remarks are pour char­la­tanism, unfound­ed accusato­ry bull shits with no fac­tu­al ref­er­ences. All fac­tu­al remarks I did get from this char­la­tan was “blah blah blah…”, the man is worse than big fat idiot Rush Lim­baugh. Who he thinks and who he is try­ing to fool, typ­i­cal FOX News audi­ences?

  • nimh says:

    Poy­a­Pakzad, above, points out how Serge Thion defend­ed Chom­sky’s remarks about the Khmer Rouge. It appears to be that, yes, Chom­sky was whol­ly wrong about the Khmer Rouge, but then again, “CHOMSKY DOES NOT WRITE ON CAMBODIA. He writes on Amer­i­ca”. I.e., he was wrong about what was exact­ly going on in Cam­bo­dia, but then we should remem­ber that he was only using the exam­ple of Cam­bo­dia as foil to ana­lyze Amer­i­can pol­i­tics, intel­lec­tu­als and media.

    This is exact­ly what has always annoyed me about Chom­sky’s writ­ings on var­i­ous crises around the world. When he appeared to take sides in the Yugoslav wars, for exam­ple, its sole moti­va­tion was to crit­i­cize the behav­iour of the West. He did­n’t actu­al­ly care about Bosni­ans or Koso­vans or Serbs, and his com­men­tary sug­gest­ed he knew lit­tle about them. To him, they were just anoth­er foil — one in a long list — that could be instru­men­tal­ized for his cri­tiques of the Unit­ed States, its pol­i­tics and its dis­cours­es. So he end­ed up tak­ing posi­tions that were, I felt strong­ly at the time, very harm­ful to the main vic­tims of the Yugoslav wars — and it was because he nev­er actu­al­ly cared enough about them to real­ly delve into what was going on; all he was inter­est­ed in was the occa­sion to fight his polit­i­cal fight in and about the US. This seemed cal­lous and unscrupu­lous to me.

    It’s also sad­ly com­mon­place among a cer­tain strand of Amer­i­can left­ists. When­ev­er a U.S.-based com­men­ta­tor now spouts off about Syr­ia, Iraq, Libya, or any such coun­try where peo­ple suf­fered and the U.S. plays, played or could play a role for bet­ter or worse, and he seems to lack much knowl­edge or care about the specifics of the con­flict but argues pas­sion­ate­ly, and exclu­sive­ly, on the basis of his exper­tise and con­cern about how per­ni­cious the U.S./the West/U.S. neoconservatives/etc. can be, I am remind­ed of how Chom­sky annoyed me. They’re often even right on the mer­its of what they say about the U.S./the West, but because that’s all they know or care about, it turns out a bit of a crap shoot whether they end up being right about the actu­al con­flict at hand — just like Chom­sky end­ed up hor­ri­bly wrong about Cam­bo­dia.

    The under­ly­ing atti­tude such Amer­i­cans dis­play always struck me as a kind of mir­ror image of U.S. impe­ri­al­ism. Their ideas may be anti-impe­ri­al­ist, but the arro­gance is still the same — inevitably, it’s still always all about them.

  • nimh says:

    Above, Gareth R. pro­vid­ed a link to Chom­sky’s answer to Zizek’s remarks. Chom­sky’a answer is cer­tain­ly vast­ly more coher­ent and artic­u­late than Zizek’s remarks, though that’s also a func­tion of com­par­ing a tran­script of ad lib remarks and a care­ful­ly craft­ed writ­ten piece. In his answer, how­ev­er, Chom­sky con­tin­ues to belit­tle the Khmer Rouge crimes, both in com­par­i­son with the crimes in East Tim­or and those inflict­ed upon the Cam­bo­di­ans by the US before the KR took over. Telling­ly, he thinks that this is a snarky rebut­tal:

    “Cam­bo­dia schol­ars have point­ed out that there has been more inves­ti­ga­tion of Cam­bo­dia from April 1975 through 1978 than for the rest of its entire his­to­ry. Again, not sur­pris­ing, giv­en the ide­o­log­i­cal util­i­ty of the suf­fer­ing of wor­thy vic­tims, anoth­er top­ic that we dis­cussed.”

    Per­son­al­ly, I also think that such focus of research is “not sur­pris­ing” — con­sid­er­ing that his­to­ri­ans under­stand­ably tend to pay atten­tion when a coun­try expe­ri­ences an unprece­dent­ed geno­cide, espe­cial­ly if it is one which seems unpar­al­leled by almost any­thing in mod­ern glob­al his­to­ry. Quite a lot has been writ­ten about the Sovi­et Union under Stal­in or Ger­many under Nazi rule, too, for exam­ple — pre­sum­ably man­i­fold more than about any oth­er part of the his­to­ry of those coun­tries. In fact, Viet­nam’s suf­fer­ing dur­ing the long years of the U.S. war there pre­sum­ably also accounts for a fair­ly vast share of total writ­ing about the coun­try’s his­to­ry, thanks in part to the con­cerned and crit­i­cal focus of peo­ple like Chom­sky. But in Chom­sky’s per­cep­tion, the focus of inter­est on the KR years must be evi­dence that his the­o­ry is right — self-evi­dent­ly enough so to be fod­der for snark.

  • Poyâ Pâkzâd (@PoyaPakzad) says:

    Here I try to explain why it is some­what wrong to char­ac­ter­ize Chom­sky as a pro­po­nent of “empiri­cism”, at least in the domain of lin­guis­tics and nat­ur­al sci­ence:‑comment-on-spat-between-chomsky-and.html

  • Monreal says:

    Zizek is a great show­man. He loves cap­i­tal as cap­i­tal loves him. He is not a com­mu­nist or marx­ist. He actu­al­ly deflects peo­ple’s atten­tion to more seri­ous social crit­ics and the­o­rists such as David Har­vey and Noam Chom­sky him­self.

  • Reinhold says:

    If you lis­ten to the audio, Zizek laments the attri­bu­tion of opposed qual­i­ties to his own think­ing, name­ly that peo­ple con­sid­er him both an “amus­ing clown” and a vio­lent and dan­ger­ous per­son who is “plan­ning a new [Ter­ror].” And then, instead of refut­ing this self-con­tra­dic­to­ry attri­bu­tion, he laughs as he says some­thing like “of course, I pre­fer the lat­ter.” I think he is obvi­ous­ly feed­ing the self-con­tra­dic­to­ry image: he is both iron­ic and seri­ous about his Lenin­ism.

  • Alexandre Gomes says:

    I believe that the true intent of Zizek is incit­ing Chom­sky for prag­ma­tism, as nec­es­sary to con­sid­er Ultra­ism, and already in “In Defense of Lost Caus­es” demand ideas with for fist, punch the wall of lib­er­al­ism. I think Chom­sky knows too much not to par­tic­i­pate.

  • Paul Schloss says:

    It seems to me that Zizek is a lib­er­al who pre­tends to be a rad­i­cal, and this accounts for his ambiva­lent atti­tude towards Chom­sky. On the one hand he admires him, but on the oth­er he ignores or mis­reads the actu­al con­tent of his views. It is just what you would expect from some­one on the mar­gins of the main­stream.

    For jus­ti­fi­ca­tion of such a posi­tion see my The Lib­er­al Stal­in­ist ( It is very long, and in places quite spec­u­la­tive. It may have some insight.

  • Julia K says:

    In the audio, Zizek actu­al­ly says “com­mu­nist par­ty of Korea”. Lis­ten to it at 1:32:00

  • Colin says:

    @Tony: Ah — the dad­dy com­ment was right on the mon­ey, then?

  • Justin says:

    Zizek is a poseur. Chom­sky is cor­rect. Take away the ver­bose pos­tur­ing and there isn’t any­thing there that a child could­n’t come up with. Some peo­ple seem to need this non­sense. But what of any sub­stance comes from Zizek. I’m not an anar­chist so I’m crit­i­cal of much of Chom­sky’s out­look but at the very least he writes clear­ly. Not so the non­sen­si­cal Zizek.

  • Picazo says:

    At least part of this polemic can be reduced to the fol­low­ing ques­tion: what exact­ly should the role of the intel­lec­tu­al in soci­ety be, what are his or her duties?

    Susan Son­tag said that the intel­lec­tu­al’s duty was to truth above all, truth even at the expense of jus­tice. To tell the truth as the intel­lec­tu­al sees it, and by doing so to coun­ter­vail the relent­less pro­pa­gan­da of the main­stream media.

    In those terms, there can be no ques­tion that Chom­sky is right. Chom­sky asks hard ques­tions of gov­ern­ments, he may be wrong on occa­sions, but he seeks to serve the truth, to ques­tion pow­er and to unmask it. He seems to me to be a brave man. I’m sure he must have lots of pow­er­ful ene­mies.

    Zizek, on the oth­er hand, plays the part of court jester, but far too well. A court jester can be sub­ver­sive too of course, a court jester can ask ques­tions of the king. But Zizek does­n’t ask the ques­tions, because he’s much more inter­est­ed in his own jokes than he is in mak­ing the king squirm in his throne.

    Zizek likes to dance around, ring his bells and part of the role of the buf­foon is to spout non­sense. The prob­lem is that, indeed, under­neath it all there is very lit­tle sub­stance. It’s not that Zizek spouts non­sense, it’s that it’s not the right non­sense. And this becomes very obvi­ous when Zizek actu­al­ly writes some­thing, as opposed to per­form­ing in front of a cam­era.

    Ask your­self this. Which of the two would cap­i­tal­ist pow­er rather see the back of, Zizek or Chom­sky? Of course, the answer is all to clear, they would rather see the back of Chom­sky, who is a thorn in the side of Amer­i­ca and Israel.

    Zizek they can eas­i­ly accom­mo­date, and in fact, I would­n’t be sur­prised if Zizek end­ed up work­ing as a talk show host, or on some dumb real­i­ty show.

  • dbc says:

    You can clear­ly see that Žižek pan­icked, when Chom­sky accused him for right rea­sons and he attacks in an “ad hominem” man­ner. Not every intel­luc­tu­al has the guts to say it, how­ev­er, it is true: Žižek is a poseur who is good with fan­cy words. Although that does not make him a less clever per­son, of course, and I have absolute­ly noth­ing to say about his intel­li­gence about phi­los­o­phy.

  • FRED SCHYWEK says:

    Kom­mu­nika­tion ist, wenn man trotz­dem lacht. Hier (und im Guardian) tre­f­fen sich min­destens vier Sprachen und ihre Welt (Griechisch, Englisch, Deutsch, Franzö­sisch, vielle­icht auch das Spin­oza-Latein des 17. Jahrhun­derts) und, ganz wesentlich: der Tod. Es ist auch der Kissinger-Tod, denn seine Napalm-Bomben fie­len im sel­ben Krieg, in dem die Roten Khmer die schreck­lichen Massen­morde beg­in­gen.
    Der Tod ist defin­i­tiv und absoluter End­punkt im Leben (die Wiederge­burts-Debat­te ers­pare ich mir an dieser Stelle, sie wäre ver­ach­t­end für die Ermorde­ten). Hier herrscht eine nicht umkehrbare Lin­ie, by the way: ZUKUNFT ist ein HIRNRAUM und keine Real­ität (nur sprach­lich). Die vie­len Tode haben stattge­fun­den auch wenn der Philosoph auf seinem New York­er Stuhl dies nicht wahr haben wollte, was aber mehr über ihn als über die Real­ität aus­sagt (da gibt es Deu­tun­gen von Igno­ranz bis Dummheit). Ich bezwei­fle, daß diese bei­de Her­ren den Unter­schied zwis­chen (deutsch) im Wer­den und im wer­den begreifen, denn wie ein Großteil der Anglow­elt denken sie, daß Englisch den Nabel der Welt beschreibt. Er ist ähn­lich dem bei real (eingedeutscht) und wirk­lich (als etwas, das wirkt, also aktiv ist). Es sind aber auch diese Art Diskurse, die die Linke (die fortschrit­tliche, human­is­tis­che Bewe­gung) schwächen und ihr einen Bären­di­enst erweisen. Ähn­liche Hal­tun­gen finde ich heute noch bei Besuchen bei Schrift­stellern in San Fran­cis­co, wo teil­weise noch eine Stal­in-Verehrung existiert (obwohl längst bewiesen ist, daß er ein Massen­mörder war). Was will man mit ihnen?

    Englisch Trans­la­tion
    Ann­marie Sauer

    Com­mu­ni­ca­tion is when one laughs any­way. Here (and in the Guardian) at least four lan­guages and their worlds meet (Greek, Eng­lish, Ger­man, French, and maybe also Spin­oza Latin of the sev­en­teenth cen­tu­ry) and, very essen­tial: Death. It is also the Kissinger death, since his Napalm-bombs fell in the same war in which the Red Khmer com­mit­ted their heinous crimes.
    Death is the final and absolute end­point of life (I wont go into the rebirth-debate here, it would be con­de­scend­ing to the ones killed. Here rules an irre­versible line, by the way: FUTURE is a BRAINSPACE and no real­i­ty (only lin­guis­ti­cal­ly). The many Deaths have tak­en place even when the philoso­pher on his New York chair doesn’t want to acknowl­edge this, which tells us more about him than about real­i­ty. There are inter­pre­ta­tions going from not know­ing to stu­pid­i­ty. I doubt that both gen­tle­men know the dif­fer­ence in Ger­man between ‘im Wer­den’ (a space of growth) and under­stand­ing ‘im wer­den’ (in becom­ing), because like a major part of the Anglo-world they think that Eng­lish is the only descrip­tive lan­guage for the belly­but­ton of the world. The dif­fer­ence is sim­i­lar con­cern­ing ‘real’ (Ger­man­ized) and real­i­ty (as some­thing, which works and thus is active). It are these kinds of dis­cours­es which weak­en the left (the pro­gres­sive, human­ist move­ment) and doesn’t do any­thing good for them. Sim­i­lar atti­tudes I find today in vis­it­ing writ­ers in San Fran­cis­co, where par­tial­ly still exist a ven­er­a­tion of Stal­in (although it has since long been proven that he was a mass mur­der­er). What to think of them?

    * * *

  • suvashis maitra says:


  • Banelion says:

    @nimh — It is not sur­pris­ing that a lot of atten­tion has been giv­en to kam­bo­dia geno­cide, ger­man or USSR etc, and that is exact­ly Noams Point. Those are all crimes that “ene­mies” have com­mit­ed.

    He gives a coun­ter­part, a crime “we” were com­mit­ing in East Tim­or. As you say it would not be sur­pris­ing if more research would be spent on it that entire oth­er peri­od com­bined right? Curi­ous­ly that is not what hap­pend. There was NO MENTION of that par­tic­u­lar geno­cide.

    You could go on to oth­er geno­cides “we” have com­mit­ed. And also you will find this supris­ing fact that they are not well known, researched and record­ed.

  • Sophia Polis says:

    I’m going to be real­ly sim­ple here, which will of course frus­trate all you deep thinkers here, but isn’t it just his per­son­al­i­ty the way he talks and express­es his ideas. I’ve recent­ly come across one of his talks and find what he has to say inter­est­ing, isn’t the most impor­tant aspect that his words encour­age peo­ple to think, peo­ple that don’t real­ly know much about this kind of dis­cus­sion, every­day peo­ple who want to know more but are put of by all those stiff aca­d­e­mics who appear to be self right­eous. That is my rather sim­ple view of the mat­ter.

  • Natasha says:

    O,my god that is some­thing that you call “dis­cus­sion” in West?At least Chom­sky was orig­i­nal and log­i­cal in his works,but this guy Zizek is real­ly fanny..with his best argu­ment “and so on” he would­nt be even a stu­dent in Rus­sia. Actu­al­ly as I see all modern\postmodern\postpostmodern west­ern philoso­phers are clowns who has no fresh ideas for so long time,that you real­ly need some­body greate as Stal­in to wake you up:)

  • Sird says:

    More inscrutable, eva­sive, pure­ly enter­tain­ing Zizek remarks

  • azy says:

    Zizek does think. Chom­s­ki does­n’t. That is why they are what they are.

    • Bahram Farzady says:

      When Chom­sky talks about ‘the­o­ry,’ he means to place it in invert­ed com­mas. He’s talk­ing about french ‘the­o­ry.’ The­o­ry and crit­ics of ide­ol­o­gy is all Chom­sky does. He’s not a his­to­ri­an (in the sense of find­ing orig­i­nal data–he just reads what oth­ers have written/documentary record, etc.). In fact, his response to this in ZMagazine is a great exam­ple of that. nnnHe claims that Zizek’s focus on the Khmer Rogue just fur­ther draws atten­tion away from East Tim­or atroc­i­ties and onto the sub­ject of how ter­ri­ble some­one the US dis­agrees with and does not like is. It’s amaz­ing that Chom­sky’s exten­sive­ly defend­ed poten­tial defense of a bad group of peo­ple not the US over­shad­ows all the bad the US does and sup­ports around the world. nnnThat’s a the­o­ry of how pow­er works which Chom­sky elu­ci­dates with hun­dreds of excel­lent exam­ples, in Under­stand­ing Pow­er (my favourite Chom­sky book).nnnWhat Zizek does, as Chom­sky writes in his response, is based on here­say and thin air. He actu­al­ly mis­takes Burle­sconi for Chom­sky, and attrib­ut­es and racist quote of the for­mer to the lat­ter.… I mean, are Zizek and Chom­sky even com­pa­ra­ble?

      • Idicula1979 says:

        I’m not say­ing I’m an Amer­i­can cheer­leader because I am not there is plen­ty of wrongs done by Amer­i­ca. I’m not or I have not seen just a cou­ple of mean­der­ing talks from Zizek, Because I have but his tens of bril­liant speech­es makes up for his ones of rant­i­ngs. But Zizek absolute­ly is the bet­ter over Chom­sky, who in his mind thinks Amer­i­ca is just a blight on human his­to­ry.

    • Bahram Farzady says:

      When Chom­sky talks about ‘the­o­ry,’ he means to place it in invert­ed com­mas. He’s talk­ing about french ‘the­o­ry.’ The­o­ry and crit­ics of ide­ol­o­gy is all Chom­sky does. He’s not a his­to­ri­an (in the sense of find­ing orig­i­nal data–he just reads what oth­ers have written/documentary record, etc.). In fact, his response to this in ZMagazine is a great exam­ple of that. nnnHe claims that Zizek’s focus on the Khmer Rogue just fur­ther draws atten­tion away from East Tim­or atroc­i­ties and onto the sub­ject of how ter­ri­ble some­one the US dis­agrees with and does not like is. It’s amaz­ing that Chom­sky’s exten­sive­ly defend­ed poten­tial defense of a bad group of peo­ple not the US over­shad­ows all the bad the US does and sup­ports around the world. nnnThat’s a the­o­ry of how pow­er works which Chom­sky elu­ci­dates with hun­dreds of excel­lent exam­ples, in Under­stand­ing Pow­er (my favourite Chom­sky book).nnnWhat Zizek does, as Chom­sky writes in his response, is based on here­say and thin air. He actu­al­ly mis­takes Burle­sconi for Chom­sky, and attrib­ut­es and racist quote of the for­mer to the lat­ter.… I mean, are Zizek and Chom­sky even com­pa­ra­ble?

  • Jim says:

    So Chom­sky’s work in lin­guis­tics was qual­i­ta­tive? Such an igno­rant remark.

  • Idicula1979 says:

    The prob­lem is that most if not all (I would say every­one except for Chris Hedges, who is bril­liant I implore you all to look him up) Amer­i­can “thinkers”, can not see social, morel, prob­lems but through the prism of Amer­i­can pol­i­tics, which is noth­ing but loud, emp­ty, and obnox­ious.

  • Manish kumar verma says:

    Thanks for your great infor­ma­tion, the con­tents are qui­et interesting.I will be wait­ing for your next post.nnfree online cours­es

  • pll says:

    I read most of the argu­ments here and 99% of you are cor­nered in the fact that he gives one exam­ple for Chom­sky’s fail­ures. Don’t you see his argu­ment on ide­ol­o­gy at all? That this is not about empir­i­cal data, that the moment you speak you are in pris­oned by ide­ol­o­gy? Zizek is not a sci­en­tist, he is a philoso­pher, or as one likes to say: he does his work in the sit­ting, not in the lab. And nev­er did he claim oth­er­wise. So yes, Chom­sky’s point is sort of idi­ot­ic because he does not real­ly get what Zizek is actu­al­ly say­ing. These are inter­pre­ta­tions, try­ing to fig­ure out, what all of this human made world means. Noth­ing else. So what does Chom­sky have to say in the end? That Zizek isn’t look­ing through data? He admits being wrong.

  • de van te Creo says:

    Some­thing dis­turbs me about both Chom­sky and Zizek. They both have the lit­er­ary and eloc­u­tive swag­ger of fear­less crit­ics of pow­er. Yet is seems their com­mon incli­na­tion, will­ing­ness, or will­ful­ness to reprint the bogus offi­cial truth as prop­a­gat­ed by pow­er as if it were indeed so even though sci­ence, rea­son, and the bald-faced facts leg­en­dar­i­ly con­flict with it. Chom­sky, in his instan­ta­neous­ly pro­duced tract on the so-called 9/11 attacks, accepts with­out ques­tion that it was 19 Ara­bic-speak­ing Wahabi fanat­ics who con­coct­ed and per­pe­trat­ed with­out aid from agents with­in the U.S. gov­ern­ment the event that would lead to the smoothe intro­duc­tion of THE PATRIOT ACT and the sud­den demise of what was left of the Bill of Rights. Zizek some years lat­er, in his book­let First as Tragedy Then as Farce, like­wise appears to accept with­out ques­tion, that the steel beams hold­ing up the Twin Tow­ers and Build­ing 7 melt­ed and col­lapsed at free-fall speed as a result of explod­ing air­plane fuel. Both refuse to exam­ine the avail­able abun­dance of fac­tu­al mate­r­i­al damn­ing­ly con­trary to the con­flict­ing and heav­i­ly edit­ed offi­cial expla­na­tions. Per­haps they find the dis­com­fort­ing and obscene­ly dev­as­tat­ing facts irrel­e­vant for sharp­en­ing the lit­tle axes they are grind­ing in their writ­ings. Nei­ther says why the con­trary facts are irrel­e­vant but they glar­ing­ly choose to ignore them com­plete­ly. It is as though they would be cut off alto­geth­er from their abil­i­ty to pub­lish anoth­er word, were they to make such blas­phe­mous obser­va­tions of the busy agents of the naked sleep­ing emper­or, who remains unwill­ing to let his left hand know what his right hand is doing. Chom­sky did the same thing with Kennedy’s assas­si­na­tion. He takes the stance, it seems, that if there is no way to stop pow­er from doing what it does, then to estab­lish the facts about what pow­er has done is a point­less endeav­or. Let us label the facts con­trary to the offi­cial sto­ry a con­spir­a­cy the­o­ry or holo­caust denial and label the boy point­ing at the naked emper­or an anti-Semi­te and be done with it. Zizek does broach the ori­gins and essence of our soci­etal polit­i­cal­ly cor­rect skit­tish­ness around the mat­ter of anti-Semi­tism with some adept­ness in an inter­lude of his The Par­al­lax View. There seems to be a hor­ror on Chom­sky’s part to see noth­ing when zero is there to view ide­ol­o­gy where sci­ence dare not tread, but Zizek goes beyond noth­ing to Less Than Noth­ing, rec­og­niz­ing for us an empti­ness that is the inmost oth­er­ness of our own be-ness or un-being­ness. Chom­sky attacks and attacks with deft and dev­as­tat­ing skill, but Zizek helps your thought process­es to grow, expand, and explore the unfa­mil­iar while giv­ing you a scaf­fold made of the the more eas­i­ly acces­si­ble.

  • blah says:

    Zizek’s response to Chom­sky. Sor­ry if this is already list­ed.

  • Davide says:

    Love it when Zizek claims that “the­o­rists” that sub­scribe to his kind of ideas don’t have pow­er at uni­ver­si­ties. He’s obvi­ous­ly nev­er been to the human­i­ties depart­ment at my school, where if you say the words “objec­tive,” “evi­dence” or “truth” in an uniron­ic way you’re prob­a­bly fired if you’re staff and placed on aca­d­e­m­ic pro­ba­tion if you’re a stu­dent.

  • kaskatrua says:

    Zizek accus­ing Chom­sky of not crit­i­ciz­ing ide­ol­o­gy is absurd, so many of his lec­tures focus on explain­ing the con­tra­dic­tions of neolib­er­al ide­ol­o­gy, includ­ing aus­ter­i­ty.

  • gk says:

    Zizek is a philoso­pher and it seems Chom­sky fankids should at least google what is a philoso­pher’s job.

  • fateh says:

    Chom­sky: Zizek you talk in a mono­syl­la­ble and inco­her­ent man­ner.

    Zizek: NO. you are and so on and so on empir­i­cal­ly. by the way blah blah blah and so on and so on. if kemers and so on and so on wrong then blah blah and so on and so on wrong

    Chom­sky: :)

  • JR Rank says:

    Right on.

    Often dis­agree with Chom­sky… but at least he’s on the right plan­et.

  • JR Rank says:

    I googled it — came back with wanker (mind wank) and mak­ing sim­ple things sound pro­found to impress peo­ple… hey, that’s what Chom­sky said — Zizek is a (mind) toss­er

  • Numb Chumpsky says:

    Chom­sky is an arro­gant, con­de­scend­ing joke of a thinker, and so are his brain­washed, fatu­ous admir­ers. Chom­sky owes his suc­cess to a rabid cult of per­son­al­i­ty. Read David Horow­itz’s or Ben­jamin Ker­stein’s dev­as­tat­ing take­downs of the clown prince of rad­i­cal left­ism. And yes’m I know Horowitz is on the right, Chom­sky clowns, so don’t even both­er with the old genet­ic fal­la­cy. Irre­spec­tive of his pol­i­tics, Horowitz edit­ed the Anti Chom­sky read­er which is a dev­as­tat­ing take­down that leaves Chom­sky’s rep­u­ta­tion in tat­ters.

  • Tom Tom says:

    My thoughts exact­ly.

  • Tom Tom says:

    Sor­ry, the com­ments sec­tion does­n’t seem to make clear, the com­ment that I am agree­ing with is: “The best sup­port for Chomsky’s accu­sa­tion that Zizek is inco­her­ent is Zizek’s defense.”

  • Andrew Clark says:

    Chom­sky is a straight­for­ward hard-left crit­ic of right-wing cap­i­tal­ist eco­nom­ics, who can often be blind to some of the prob­lems with left-wing pol­i­tics — whether it’s the bru­tal­i­ty of cer­tain regimes or the tin-eared moral­ism of the lib­er­al-left­’s approach to (multi)cultural iden­ti­ty. In con­trast, Zizek does­n’t go in for moral­ism, pre­fer­ring irony, and hav­ing grown up in com­mu­nist East­ern Europe he’s more savvy with regards to the author­i­tar­i­an ten­den­cies of the hard-left when they get into state pow­er.

    Chom­sky would lump Zizek with oth­er ‘post­mod­ern intel­lec­tu­als’ because that’s Zizek’s intel­lec­tu­al back­ground, and Chom­sky finds post­mod­ern the­o­ry obscu­ran­tist. Zizek likes post­mod­ern the­o­ry because, for him, it demys­ti­fies the cul­tur­al ide­olo­gies that under­pin the psy­cho­dy­nam­ics of much polit­i­cal inter­pre­ta­tion. But what Chom­sky is unaware of is that Zizek is also a crit­ic of post­mod­ernism because he finds many fig­ures in post­mod­ern the­o­ry to be dog­mat­ic moral­ists of the lib­er­al-left (let’s say, Lev­inasians).

    Despite all these dif­fer­ences, what Chom­sky and Zizek have in com­mon, ulti­mate­ly, is that they are both left-lean­ing vision­ar­ies try­ing to fig­ure out the best way to insti­tute some sort of post-cap­i­tal­ist econ­o­my. In this regard, prob­a­bly the main prac­ti­cal dif­fer­ence between them is that Chom­sky would, like the lib­er­al-left, be of the more anti-nation­al­ist pro-glob­al­ist vari­ety (iron­ic giv­en that his work influ­enced the anti-glob­al­i­sa­tion left of 20 years ago). Where­as, Zizek would be more prag­mat­ic, more Rorty-esque, when it comes to the role of the nation-state as the basic struc­ture of demo­c­ra­t­ic legit­i­ma­cy (and con­trol­ling immi­gra­tion as a proxy to con­trol­ling unfet­tered glob­al cap­i­tal­ism).

  • Victor Hugo M.C. says:

    And Zizek did­n’t talk about lin­guis­tics at all…
    What’s the point?

  • Mali Pali says:
    Extreme­ly shal­low and poor­ly done, I some­one who has to move trough 4 coun­tries in ex-Yugoslavia and been involved in army and gov­ern­ment offi­cials I can tell the Chom­sky done poor effort to find facts and explain what hap­pened there. Good for west­ern stu­dent who nev­er seen real­i­ty but not more then enter­tain­ment, hard­ly seri­ous.

  • Mali Pali says:

    Agree com­plete­ly, read­ing this non­sense.

  • Jackie Packi says:

    Agree with what/who? Chom­sky or ŹiŻek?

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