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Žižek's Negative (Positive) Project or, Negativity as Positive Possibility

The Diversity of Social Theories

ISBN: 978-0-85724-821-3, eISBN: 978-0-85724-822-0

ISSN: 0278-1204

Publication date: 12 October 2011

Abstract

Žižek has become both one of the dominant voices in current leftist cultural, social, and political critique and one of the most maligned. His work can be obscure, difficult to understand, and at times hyperbolic. Of particular difficulty is the attempt to discern a “positive” project in his work, as it seems that he is very good at offering us a sustained discussion of the difficulties of finding an oppositional stance to what he describes as our “current situation.” In fact, he is so good at this, that if we take him seriously it becomes hard to see a way out. Despite such appearances, Žižek's work offers us a radical insight into the twin processes of the creation of the social and the creation of the subject (and their mutual interdependence) as well as a novel conception of the possibility of resistance and social change based on this process. Furthermore, we can best make sense of this theory of resistance as founded in what Žižek identifies as the “negative” moment. This moment brings with it the possibility of something which is not determined by the existing power structure, thus it brings with it the possibility of a universalist stance that is unconditioned by our “current situation.” It is not then, as some have argued, that Žižek's privileging of the negative moment leads to a theory of social change that cannot sustain a positive project, nor is it the case that Žižek's theory of the negative serves as the first move upon which a positive project can be built. Žižek's radical insight is that the negative moment can itself be a positive phenomenon. The proper negative act then is one which lays the foundation for social change by creating a radical form of subjectivity that serves as the basis for such change. In trying to explicate Žižek's claims, what he is suggesting can be best understood by reference to Žižek's Lacanian reading of Hegel's theory of subjective freedom: freedom arising in the necessity that first defines (and confines) the subject.

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Citation

Pfeifer, G. (2011), "Žižek's Negative (Positive) Project or, Negativity as Positive Possibility", Dahms, H.F. (Ed.) The Diversity of Social Theories (Current Perspectives in Social Theory, Vol. 29), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 209-235. https://doi.org/10.1108/S0278-1204(2011)0000029015

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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