Slavoj Žižek is unique in that he successfully challenges many of the founding assumptions of today’s left-liberal academy, including the elevation of difference or otherness to ends in themselves, and the pervasive skepticism towards any context-transcendent notions of truth or the good.
His work is idiosyncratic, provocative, discontent. The British literary theorist, Terry Eagleton, described him as the “most formidably brilliant” recent theorist to have emerged from Continental Europe.
It was inevitable that we will discuss about Žižek during my short stay in Ljubljana. And bring back – a gift – a small red book, Žižek’s essay “Living in the End of Times“, written especially for Slovenia’s appearance at EXPO 2010, which I read it during my flight back to the U.K. The essay is an introduction to his homonymous book.
“Our struggle is not against actual corrupt individuals but against those in power in general; against their authority, against the global order and the ideological mystification which sustains it”, says Žižek.
About the paradox which resides in the retroactive appearance of probability
An event is thus experienced first as impossible but not real (the prospect of a forthcoming catastrophy which however probable we know it is, we do not believe it will effectively occur and thus dismiss it as impossible), and then as real but no longer impossible (once the catastrophy occurs, it is “renormalized”, perceived as part of the normal run of things, as always – already having been possible). The gap which makes these paradoxes possible is the one between knowledge and belief: we know the (ecological) catastrophy is possible, probable even, yet we do not believe it will really happen.”
If we are to confront the threat of a catastrophy, Žižek says, we have to introduce a new notion of time. The future is causally produced by our actions in the past, while the way we act is determined by our anticipation of the future and our reaction to this anticipation. Dupuy proposes to confront the catastrophy
.. we should first perceive it as our fate, as unavoidable, and then, projecting ourselves into it,adopting its standpoint, we should retroactively insert into its past (the past of the future) counterfactual possibilities.
It is a parodoxical formula: we have to accept that, at the level of possibilities, our future is doomed, the catastrophy will take place, it is our destiny – and then, on the background of this acceptance, we should mobilize ourselves to perform the act which will change destiny itself and thereby insert new possibility into the past. Destiny and free action go hand by hand, Žižek argues.
Freedom is at its most radical the freedom to change one’s Destiny.