Recording of a talk held on 20th November 2019 at Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities, London. The second session that took place next day, titled ‘For a Left that Dares to Speak its Name’, is unfortunately not available.
Not such a long time ago, in a galaxy that now appears far, far away, the public space was clearly distinguished from the obscenities of private exchanges. Today, however, not only we can read in the mass media about the intimate details of public personalities, populist politicians themselves often regress to shameless obscenity. It is the very PUBLIC domain in which “fake news” circulates, in which rumors and conspiracy theories abound. One should not lose sight of what is so surprising about this rise of shameless obscenity. Traditionally (or in our retroactive view of tradition, at least), shameless obscenity worked as subversive, as an undermining of traditional domination, as depriving the Master of his false dignity.
In the 1960’s protesting students liked to use obscene words or make obscene gestures to embarrass figures of power and, so they claimed, denounce their hypocrisy. However, what we are getting today, with the exploding public obscenity, is not the disappearance of authority, of Master figures, but its forceful reappearance – we are getting something unimaginable decades ago, obscene Masters.
Slavoj Žižek is a Philosopher and Psychoanalytic social theorist. He is Senior Researcher at the Department of Philosophy, University of Ljubljana; Professor at the School of Law and Director of the Institute for the Humanities at Birkbeck, University of London; Distinguished Scholar at the Kyung Hee University, Seoul; and Visiting Professor at the German Department, New York University. His field of work comprises Lacanian psychoanalytic theory, dialectical-materialist metaphysical interpretations of German Idealism and Marxian critique of ideology. His more than sixty books in English have been widely translated. His latest publications include ‘Pandemic!’ & ‘Pandemic! 2’, ‘Hegel in a Wired Brain’, ‘Sex and the Failed Absolute’, ‘Like A Thief In Broad Daylight’, ‘Reading Marx’, ‘Incontinence of the Void’, ‘The Day After the Revolution’, ‘Heaven in Disorder’ and ‘Reading Hegel’.