No need to guess

Žižek is hardly the only leftist thinker who has believed in the renovating power of violence, but it is hard to think of another one for whom the revolution itself was the acte gratuite. For the revolutionary, Žižek instructs in In Defense of Violence, violence involves “the heroic assumption of the solitude of a sovereign decision.” He becomes the “master” (Žižek’s Hegelian term) because “he is not afraid to die, [he] is ready to risk everything.” True, “democratic materialism furiously rejects” the “infinite universal Truth” that such a figure brings, but that is because “democracy as a rule cannot reach beyond pragmatic utilitarian inertia … a leader is necessary to trigger the enthusiasm for a Cause.” In sum, “without the Hero, there is no Event”—a formula from a video game that Žižek quotes with approval. He grants that “there is definitely something terrifying about this attitude—however, this terror is nothing less than the condition of freedom.”

There is a name for the politics that glorifies risk, decision, and will; that yearns for the hero, the master, and the leader; that prefers death and the infinite to democracy and the pragmatic; that finds the only true freedom in the terror of violence. Its name is not communism. Its name is fascism, and in his most recent work Žižek has inarguably revealed himself as some sort of fascist. He admits as much in Violence, where he quotes the German philosopher Peter Sloterdijk on the “re-emerging Left-Fascist whispering at the borders of academia”—”where, I guess, I belong.” There is no need to guess.

–Adam Kirsch, “The Deadly Jester”


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