Nearing the end of the Modern and Postmodern course and it’s going up a notch.
Just when I thought things couldn’t get any more intense we’re introduced to Slavoj Žižek.
So where Nietzsche pointed out that God is Dead, Žižek points out that God does not know that He is dead.
Žižek‘s interpretation of Jacques Lacan suggests we are now seeking to fill in the gap in our (un)consciousness which we have held as a place for ‘God.’ This vacuum is then filled with what? Žižek argues that the void in the unconscious is simply filled with more prohibitions.
Richard Dawkin’s bus ads which were put up on London buses a few years ago are a good example. Žižek states that atheists unconsciously continue to believe in God (maybe the reason the sign said ‘probably’), but he also argues that you can’t enjoy your life by displacing God because you will simply fill it in with other prohibitions – ‘the more you perceive yourself an atheist, the more your unconscious is dominated by prohibitions which sabotage your enjoyment.’
Another example: Žižek describes the traditional father who imposes authority – ie “You’ll come with us to visit grandma because I said so”, is in reality a much better father than the post-modern father who gives you the out – ie “You don’t have to visit grandma if you don’t want to, but I know you will want to do the right thing.”
The latter says Žižek removes our freedom completely and makes us complicit in accepting a sort of collective behaviour eg towards greater control/of benefit to the State. While the first father demands us to act against our will, we can still exercise our freedom of thought against the justice of this authority – which aligns with Kantian ideas. The post-modern father suggests we will comply but, in acting against our nature or will, we will also be happy in our compliance.
My husband tells a good story to illustrate this:
As a boy he sold some of his hand reared rabbits at the market.
With the cold hard earned cash in his hand (about $1) – his mother said to him it would be a good idea to buy a statue of the Sacred Heart.
Of course he still recalls the bitter feeling of having to part, not only with his rabbits, but also with the money he’d earned for something he had been coerced into ‘wanting.’
I’m not sure whether his mum (God bless her) could be described as post-modern, but clearly Irish Catholic mothers have had this sort of mental manipulation down pat for centuries – and Lacan probably knew something about that too.
Critics of Zizek say he misinterpreted Lacan and, as I have no doubt misinterpreted Zizek, please read more and let me know what you think..