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The truth is in the process. Zizek Pt. 3 (Ideology, Dialectics)

Ideology's Function and Risks, Žižek's Critique of Ideological Frameworks, Dialectical Understanding of Reality, Necessity of Ideology in Human Experience.


The truth is in the process. Zizek Pt. 3 (Ideology, Dialectics)

Hello everyone! I’m Stephen West. This is Philosophize This. So I got a message a couple days ago from someone on Patreon. His name was Andrew. He was from Australia. Shout out to Australia, by the way. But he was responding to that question of what would you ask Zizek if you could ask him anything. And what he said was something to the effect of okay, Zizek. I get it. My worldview is ideology. I’m but a FEEBLE human mind… that NEEDS this ideology you’re talking about…to give me SHORTCUTS. Shortcuts that allow me to UNDERSTAND my reality…because NO human being has the mental resources to understand the FULL complexity of reality on it’s own terms. I get it. But isn’t it ALSO the case that whenever ANYONE out there does something GOOD for the society they’re in…HIS example was that he does things sometimes to reduce CLIMATE change…don’t people NEED the mental resources to be able to DO good things like that at all? I mean if we just sat around OBSESSING over the true COMPLEXITY of reality all day long…then we’d never get anything done. In other words: don’t people NEED ideology to be able to do ANYTHING? He said if you look at someone who’s a Christian…maybe on ONE hand, depending on your perspective, you’ll SEE that as somebody that’s immersed in an ideology…but on the OTHER hand, look, they’re still FEEDING the HOMELESS on Sunday. REGARDLESS of ANY ideology ...they’re still doing good things. His question is: WHY should we SPEND the limited mental resources that we have… disassembling these ideological crutches…that we need? Well I think Zizek would see this as a bit of a black and white description of what the options are that we have as people. You don’t need to spend every second of your LIFE disassembling ideology in some ideology cult with pentagrams on the walls…there’s different levels of self awareness that are possible. And if you wanted to suggest NEVER looking at the ideological framework you’re using to make sense of the world, if you don’t pay attention to ANY of this…to Zizek there are very real CONSEQUENCES to that. For example, you could be DOING things that you TRULY THINK are supporting the climate change effort for example…when in reality the things you’re doing…accomplish almost the opposite. Because ideology to Zizek is not JUST…the specific set of things that you believe…and then the identity that blossoms out of that. It’s not as simple as just I’m a new atheist…you’re a creationist. These are our ideologies and now let's go to battle with each other. Ideology is much BROADER than that. It’s more SUBVERSIVE. It’s not only in the way that you consciously THINK about the world…it’s in what you DON’T think about the world. It’s in what you do. It’s in the way information is distributed…it’s in the “secret agreements” that are made underneath your decisions for Zizek…the ideological structures…that make you FEEL like you SEE the world so SIMPLY and SO CLEARLY…but it GIVES you this feeling of CLARITY…ALWAYS by EXCLUDING OTHER ways of framing that SAME REALITY. Ideology, to Zizek, is the entire SYSTEM of symbols, tactics, and agreements…that accomplishes that task. So it’s not as simple as just New Atheism or Christianity…and while you may SEE people CALL themselves these terms, and part of how they GOT there is through COMMON ideological tactics you can point out…the fact is for Zizek if you wanted to understand IDEOLOGY and what it’s capable of doing….there are OTHER…STRUCTURES of ideology out there you can find that are even MORE effective at REINFORCING people’s worldview, feeding into their DESIRES, EXCLUDING different ways of viewing things that KEEP people locked in. By the end of the episode…we’ll understand WHY to Zizek, the DOMINANT ideology in the west of liberal democratic capitalism… has become so brutally efficient at MANAGING people’s thinking… that we are NOW at a point in history where capitalism… doesn’t even need something like democracy to be able to function anymore. And now we’re seeing the effects of it. The easiest place to SEE how ideology ACTUALLY works in the world is on the level of what’s commonly called SOCIAL relations…or how do the people, the institutions or the IDEAS within a society, connect together? Ideology DISTORTS the way people think about these everyday things. Which…at this point it should just be said: Zizek’s obviously NOT the first person to ever talk about ideology. Pretty notable moment for HIM though, in the history of this conversation… is going to be the way Karl Marx talked about ideology. See for Marx: one thing we HAVE to understand is that the DOMINANT ideology of ANY particular culture…is GOING to be DETERMINED by the ruling class…and that’s not a CONSPIRACY theory…he’s not saying there’s a bunch of old dudes drinking their metamucil together, playing bingo, pulling the puppet strings of society at their big meetings that they have. It’s actually a common misconception about Marx as a philosopher: by saying… the ruling class put this in place…this isn’t a MORALISTIC claim he’s making like these are BAD PEOPLE…this is an analytical claim. Social structures EMERGE in a particular way as well as the world views of the people that are born into them. See at another level to SOME out there this is just common sense: who STRUCTURES a society? Well it’s the people that have the power and influence to be able to structure it in the FIRST place. And those people that STRUCTURE it… obviously do it in a way where the HOPE is that it all keeps working into the future, they don’t WANT society to FAIL. So the dominant ideology of any society for Marx is going to REFLECT the ideas of the people that had enough power and influence to set it up. And when you’re BORN into one of these societies, from the time you’re a baby you INTERNALIZE different ways of VIEWING what life IS in that society, or put broadly, SOCIAL relations. And this could one of THOUSANDS of different questions you may HAVE about society and how the world works: What is a SCHOOL for example? What is the FUNCTION of a school? You send someone to school…what is it that you expect a school is SUPPOSED to be doing for that person? That’s a question there’s a DEFAULT answer to that you internalize, but is there more TO it than that? What is the GOVERNMENT in this system, same questions. When I go into a store and I BUY something…what is it that I’m doing there? Am I participating in free market capitalism and casting my vote for the product or service that provides VALUE to the consumer the best? Or is that a PIECE of it…and is there MORE to it than that? And that REAPEATING question: is there more TO it than that…that’s going to be a great question to keep asking yourself throughout your life about every ONE of your beliefs. How is the clarity of my worldview made possible by excluding other worldviews? Where does ideology… give people an EASY answer to complex questions… that allow them to live comfortably as a subject in whatever culture they’re in…and is it possible that a broader understanding of these social relations exists…if you were to just consider OTHER ideological frameworks that interpret the SAME THINGS that are GOING ON in the world…through a slightly different filter. Remember our example of light from last episode. You can view the SAME empirical data as a particle, a wave or a wave particle duality, and it CHANGES what your view of light is: because the conceptual FRAMEWORK changes. To use the oversimplified example from LAST episode of the New Atheist vs the Creationist: a creationist may look out onto the horizon… and see a double rainbow and a little baby goat right next to it eating some clover on a hillside… and to THEM… that might mean this is GOD pointing me in the direction of my new pet goat, this is divine intervention, what are the odds here? And I realize very few creationists actually think this way but that’s kind of the POINT…you GET sufficiently OUTSIDE of the parameters of an ideology and you can see how someone has a bunch of secret agreements they’ve made that allow them to SEE the world so clearly…but again its to the exclusion of a lot of OTHER explanations. Let’s give a real world example. Let’s give a JUICY one from Zizek himself. It’s about the SUPPOSED political LEFT in the United States vs the SUPPOSED political RIGHT in the United States. I say supposed because to Zizek the terms left and right are outdated terms to TALK about the political opposition going on these days… it just oversimplifies what the problems are and OBSCURES the true SOCIAL relations between people. Though he WILL still use left and right as a purely descriptive term sometimes, anyway: By the left and right in the United States he means that on the extreme LEFT, you have the type of people who are obsessed with plasticity, and identity, diversity, equity, inclusion…and on the extreme RIGHT… you have populist alt-right fascism. And to the people IMMERSED in any VERSION of these two extremes…they often SEE their political enemies, on the OTHER SIDE…and think these people that are SO FAR OFF when it comes to their worldview…I honestly don’t know if we agree on ANYTHING. This is an unbridgeable divide that exists between us…people talk about a civil war. But to Zizek…again, asking us to CONSIDER this SAME situation through a DIFFERENT ideological FILTER…to Zizek these two GROUPS are two sides of the same coin. Because BOTH of them…are sitting around arguing about the DETAILS of how to MAINTAIN the society as it IS…without addressing the underlying global capitalist economic ETHOS… that CREATES all of the problems that they’re ARGUING about. There’s no REAL left leaning option for people to vote for…just two different FACTIONS of the capitalist party. It’s a tactic as old as time. Couple decades ago people were arguing about stem cells, marijuana legalization, abortion, cloning. You get people arguing about deeply philosophical social issues… that DON’T have a scientific answer to them yet and they’ll keep arguing about that stuff for the rest of their lives not QUESTIONING the bi-partisan CONSENSUS of global capitalism underneath. As HE says: people on the supposed left… WANT CAPITALISM…they just want it a LITTLE less racist. A LITTLE less sexist. A little less selfish overall. When THEY go out and they BUY things they want to buy from companies that give a little percentage back to nature. Or any millennial owned company you see on Shark Tank…it’s not ENOUGH these days to just have a company with a good product…every millennial and Gen Zer has to have a CAUSE they give back to as well, they give SOCKS to the homeless. They give a percentage back to the environment, mental illness whatever it is. From THEIR ideological perspective BEING someone immersed in liberal, democratic capitalism…THEY’RE doing the lord’s work! They’re using what little mental resources they HAVE to contribute to the cause of CLIMATE change, why spend all day WORRYING about ideology? But from a DIFFERENT ideological framing…the one Zizek’s asking us to consider…you’re not FIGHTING against the PROBLEMS there…from THIS perspective: you are living in a society with a FUNDAMENTALLY BROKEN economic approach that is producing the destruction of the environment, social inequality, commodity fetishism and mental illness among OTHER things…and what YOU are…is the person ON the SINKING SHIP, DUMPING buckets of WATER over the side to try to PROLONG the system as long as it can go on. The switch in accountability that goes ON here in the ideology of global capitalism, Zizek says, is sometimes TRULY genius. You have people participating in a society that’s policies produce literal MOUNTAINS of trash, ISLANDS the size of TEXAS sitting in the ocean…and everyday people reading about this stuff in the NEWS…start to blame THEMSELVES and other PEOPLE…not the system itself! Oh I really COULD BE a better recycler…that’s a fair point. If all you out there would be better RECYCLERS and COMPOSTERS then maybe this broken way of doing things could CLING ON for dear life just a little bit longer. They BUY things from places like Starbucks, Zizek says, that dedicates a portion of their profits to Mother Earth. And they KNOW this cup of coffee in their hand costs MORE than other cups of coffee…and PART of the commodity fetishism MAGIC that gets INJECTED into that cup of coffee by ideology…is that the PRICE to DO something GOOD for the environment that we feel so bad about…is FACTORED IN…to the price of the cup of coffee. He says it should be on the receipt when you get it, 10% to mother earth, 5% to THAT cause and so on and so on. Now there’s plenty of time to talk about specific examples of this…real quick I want to get back to this REFRAMING he would want to do of the political divide in the US. The left and right to him are two sides of the same coin. They’re BOTH based on LIES… that ALLOW for the other side’s lie to continue. The LEFT with political correctness and censorship… CLAIMS to be about protecting the exploited people of the world…but in REALITY political correctness to Zizek is a displaced class struggle, it is economic in nature, and it becomes an INSTRUMENT that is used by the left to prevent political dissent on the other side. And when you HAVE such a transparent LIE that it’s about PROTECTING the exploited when it obviously ISN’T…THIS LIE…allows for the lie on the RIGHT…that THEIR movement is about protecting the exploited, every day working americans… that are the LIFE blood of the country… that these pro-ESTABLISHMENT ELITES are HURTING with all their policies that don’t CONSIDER them… as the elites PRETEND to care about the exploited. But he says NEITHER side of this is TRULY helping the people who are being exploited in the world. One lie FEEDS into the other. Again to Zizek, there IS no true LEFTIST option that CHALLENGES global capitalism. And what HAPPENS for him is that things like human rights, democracy…these become things that in the modern world we PRACTICE…but that we don’t really believe in. They become something SIMILAR to a more PERFORMATIVE belief that parents and kids will have about Santa Claus. Neither ONE of them BELIEVE in it at a certain point, but they don’t want to disappoint all the OTHER people INVOLVED in the social belief. They PRACTICE it…but do they REALLY believe in it? To be CLEAR here…Zizek is NOT saying that these conversations people are HAVING in the political sphere are not IMPORTANT conversations to be having. He is ABSOLUTELY supportive of ANY KIND of REAL progress in the realm of women's rights, gay rights, trans rights, the acknowledgement of the realities of working class Americans, these are IMPORTANT conversations he thinks. But I think he’d CAUTION about mistaking political MOVEMENT for political PROGRESS in these areas that have become HIGHLY co opted by global capitalism… without ALSO addressing what he sees as the CAUSE to many of these problems. And if you’re asking WHY would I EVER spend my time WORRYING about my ideological FRAMING of REALITY, being more self AWARE of it. Well again to Zizek…BOTH sides of this divide are FILLED with people that have GREAT intentions. But NOT being aware of ideology allows you to be CAPTURED by causes in ways that you don’t INTEND to be…he says what’s ALREADY HAPPENING on a GLOBAL scale…is that Russian NATIONALIST, fascist ideology… starts to become aligned with people that hate wokism in the United States, because naturally the enemy of my enemy is my friend. And then what’s ALREADY going on he says in Uganda and in South Africa and parts of the middle EAST…is that Russian propaganda, VERY EFFECTIVELY, can start to align being a SUPPORTER of FEMINISM, Gay Rights and Trans rights…with a NEW KIND of Western Imperialism. The propaganda is this is the NEW american exceptionalism that’s being IMPOSED upon the rest of the world. If American exceptionalism DECADES AGO was this is OUR country, like it or leave it, we’re the best country in the WORLD. On the global stage Zizek warns…it’s already happening but MORE he predicts as we move into the future…that to be AGAINST COLONIALISM and NATO expansion…will be to BE against Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Now to take a pause here and relate this back to the FIRST episode we did on Zizek. This is an example of Zizek doing what he does. This is a REFRAMING of the world through a DIFFERENT ideological lens that FORCES the people hearing it to consider the ideological structures they’re immersed in. And it is also PRIMARILY aimed at the people who consider themselves to be on the LEFT…and again, that’s not because he’s a SUPPORTER of the right, it’s because his target AUDIENCE are the people that see ENOUGH of a PROBLEM with the status quo that they can be REACHED by conversation…the would be REVOLUTIONARIES ON the left that haven’t been fully shaken OUT of the common ideological lanes people fall into. But HOW would he say we GOT here? How did liberal democratic capitalism become the hegemonic order of the western world that we NEVER seriously question…where then what POLITICS becomes AFTER that is just finding ways to maintain that system with all the problems it creates? Well to Zizek…an absolutely CRUCIAL moment in history if you wanted to understand what’s going on with the western world today…is in the year 1992…when a political scientist named Francis Fukuyama came out with what was an EXTREMELY important book at the time… called The End of History and the Last Man. The way Zizek would describe this book…is that Fukuyama took an oversimplification of Hegel, his concept of “absolute knowledge”, the dialectical change of Hegel and applied it to the political climate of the early 1990’s. See in 1991 the world saw the fall of the Soviet Union. And Fukuyama in 92 made the claim that if you look at the history of human ideas…for a LONG time we’ve been in this BATTLE that’s been going on… between DIFFERENT ideologies that say what the best way is to organize people in a society…we SEE this throughout history… ideologies will RISE and then they will fall, each progressive system will get a LITTLE bit better than the last one…this starts to look like his INTERPRETATION of what HEGEL was saying that there will BE this slow historical progression until ONE day we reach a sort of CULMINATION of that PROCESS and arrive at the ULTIMATE form of political organization that realizes human freedom. The END to HISTORY, Absolute Knowledge…I mean if you BELIEVED that this progression in human thought was going on…is it SO CRAZY to THINK that we’ve LEARNED so many LESSONS about how to politically organize people that we’ve come up with the BEST general system there is for accomplishing that? Well again in 91 the soviet union falls and in 92 Fukuyama says that MAYBE WE’VE ARRIVED at that ultimate system, and that SYSTEM is Liberal Democratic Capitalism or the combination of classical liberalism, democracy and capitalism. And CONSIDER how all THREE of these things work so WELL together and how their WISDOM ADJUSTS to the specific world they’re in! Capitalism is based on free markets, and ultimately the CHOICES of the people making UP those markets. Democracy, similar sort of thing, it’s based on the will of the people. And classical liberalism with it’s multiculturalism, and tolerance, and free and open discussion letting the best ideas rise to the top…think of how OPEN ENDED all this is! This three pronged approach…could be the ULTIMATE SYSTEM we’ve been WAITING for. And as Zizek says: at the time a LOT of progressive thinkers in the western world agreed with this optimism. He says for about a decade 99% of leftists were Fukuyama leftists. The THINKING was look… obviously we’re STILL gonna have PROBLEMS to deal with in the world. Liberal democratic capitalism isn’t a PANACEA. There’s of course inequality there’s the environment there’s women’s rights…but here’s what we’re optimistic about: the MOST LIKELY WAY ALL THESE THINGS are gonna get BETTER…is from within a liberal, democratic, capitalist society. And this is when the seeds were planted for politics in the United States being a matter of maintaining the economic and political order of things, not questioning their legitimacy. Zizek says people thought back in the 90’s it’s just a MATTER OF TIME before the WISDOM of this political setup SPREADS across the globe like a virus and EVERYBODY realizes how great of a system it is. He said they THOUGHT we were living in a POST-ideological age. But he says if there’s ANYTHING those Fukuyama leftists learned on September 11th, 2001…it was that they HADN’T arrived at some sort of ultimate political system where everyone was going to accept western progressive thought… because the wisdom of it would just be self-evident to them. What you saw was an example of a modern historical trend we’ve seen over and over again to Zizek where western progressive values get IMPOSED upon people that don’t want them or have their OWN problems to deal with…and then you see a reactionary, fundamentalist BACKLASH as a response. And then a western LIBERAL response to THAT. And then a fundamentalist response to THAT. This revolving door of western liberalism and fundamentalism both FUELING the reactions from each other. What you saw on September 11th for Zizek…is the unpredictability of history, the TRUE dialectic of Hegel…that BY THE WAY Hegel would’ve TOLD you about if you had just interpreted his WORK a little differently. What Zizek thinks Hegel was really saying. To understand how Zizek sees history and progress…is CRUCIAL for understanding the rest of the way he SEES the world and the STATE of liberal democratic capitalism today. But to DO that we’re going to need to take a deeper look at Dialectics than we’ve ever gone INTO on this podcast before. And I guess it should just be said: that there’s a pretty common intro to dialectics that you’ll see on introductions to the thought of Hegel that revolves around this idea of thesis, antithesis, synthesis. That there’s a pendulum of social progress where there’s ONE way of looking at things, the thesis, an opposition of an idea comes along and critiques that initial idea, pendulum swings in the other direction that’s the antithesis, and then the contradictions of both sides are resolved and they take the new form of a synthesis between the two, which then becomes the new thesis and this whole process continues… UNTIL… we reach a form of absolute knowledge that lies at the end of this long process, a sort of culmination. But to Zizek and dare I say most people out there that take Hegel seriously…this is a massive oversimplification. It’s useful if you’re just introducing the ideas, but…well for one thing Hegel himself never USED the terms thesis antithesis synthesis. And he never described this as being some macro level process where political ideologies battle against each other and get better over time. Dialectics is a way of viewing EVERYTHING about reality… that, yes, started with Hegel…but it was taken up later by Marx and applied in a different way across the material conditions of reality…it’s been taken up by a LOT of thinkers over the years because of the STRENGTH of looking at reality in a dialectical way: it reveals some IMPORTANT TRUTHS about how things actually operate in the world. Now I warn you it can get kind of complex. And there’s no way I can cover over 100 years of work that’s been DONE in dialectics in a segment of a podcast like this. Honestly someone could an entire PODCAST ONLY talking about dialectics. But I think I can give you at least a glimpse of the way Zizek is looking at institutions and people in the modern world…by going a bit deeper than we’ve gone on this podcast before. The first thing that needs to be said about this different way of viewing reality… is that we need to ACCEPT the fact that everything is moving and changing, all the time. STOP thinking about reality as though its a bunch of static things out there that we need to go and STUDY. You know, look at them REALLY hard under a microscope ONCE… and then we know everything ABOUT them. The WORLD as we know it is CONSTANTLY in a state of change. This is important. This is something we talked about on the episodes we did about PROCESS philosophy. Remember the example of a sand dune…PICTURE a sand dune on a really windy day where the sands being blown around everywhere. How do you get an understanding of what that sand dune is? There’s a sense in which EVEN if you went and MEASURED where EVERY piece of sand is at a precise moment in time…by the time you got done making the MEASUREMENT… it would’ve transformed into something slightly different. In other words: ABOVE AND BEYOND understanding just the MATERIAL components of something…there’s a process of CHANGE that it’s important to understand as well if you want to know about reality. Well let’s take an initial example…let’s take something PRACTICAL from the realm of SOCIAL relations, how about one of the examples we gave before. What is a school? There’s one way of approaching reality…where understanding what a SCHOOL is seems like a pretty easy thing to do. You could have an answer to that question already queued up…a school is where people go to be educated. And to be educated means they teach you HOW to think, not WHAT to think. And ultimately…I think a school should be teaching you information that’s USEFUL to you when you get OUT of that school and start working or having a family…what’s the POINT of a school otherwise someone could say? But there’s ANOTHER way of looking at reality…where that SCHOOL is something that is CONSTANTLY changing…and in TERMS of what it is on a particular DAY…that school is ALWAYS under the influence of both INTERNAL tensions… from teachers, parents, students, administrators, ALL these people have an effect on what that school is…and EXTERNAL factors, like how this SCHOOL as an institution… is POSITIONED…in the larger SOCIETY that it’s a PART of. What is the CULTURE like? What is the POLITICAL situation in that society? What’re the ECONOMIC conditions? What does BEING EDUCATED MEAN from within those parameters? SOCIAL RELATIONS: How does the institution of a school…relate to the institution of government? How do schools relate to companies? How do schools relate to churches or their local community? How does it relate to HISTORY? There are THOUSANDS of different CONTACT points that determine what a school is…and everyone of those CONTACT points are constantly changing as well. And at THIS moment in the conversation someone can HEAR all this and say okay…YES I have a definition of what a school is PRAGMATICALLY…but OBVIOUSLY I realize… at ANOTHER level the world is always CHANGING like this. That’s why what I try to do…is I try to channel my inner Socrates…I try to think about the NATURE of something as it’s supposed to be…that way even if these little details about the thing change over time…I still KNOW what something is supposed to be like in a more TIMELESS sort of way. Well ABOUT that: consider another example of the government and IT’S role in a society. Conservative person today could have a ready made answer…what’s the government’s JOB? Its the government’s job to protect the borders and get out of my way economically speaking so that I can exercise my freedom. That’s a timeless answer they could say…it doesn’t CHANGE across generations. But while the WORDS you use to DESCRIBE it might not change…consider the fact that the actual SHAPE of the government DOES. If the government’s job is to preserve the economy for example…then the specific economic and political situation that it’s trying to PRESERVE… has a BIG IMPACT on what that government actually is. Picture the difference between what a government is…where it’s job is to preserve the economic order of the Feudal system in Medieval Europe…and how DIFFERENT that is from what a government needs to be in order to preserve a modern, CAPITALIST system. Or the Chinese COMMUNIST government. The instruments that the government uses to ACCOMPLISH that task, the size and SCOPE of government, the way it relates to the people. There’s a sense in which for a certain kind of thinker that is looking at the complexity of reality and is trying to understand it…if you wanted to try to understand WHAT the government is as ONE thing to understand…and what COMPANIES ARE as ANOTHER thing to understand and what a SCHOOL is over here…there’s a sense in which if you try to DO that…you’re setting yourself up for oversimplifying things. The reality is that companies and the government are ALWAYS intertwined…to try to understand them as separate entities MISSES a big part of what they are and how they work. And this extends BEYOND companies and the government to ALL different social institutions: you have to try to understand them more HOLISTICALLY. Okay. Now we’re starting to get a little CLOSER to the way Zizek analyzes social institutions. Let’s take this another level deeper though: if it is the government’s JOB…to enforce the LAW for example…that’s another thing that seems uncontroversial to say. Consider the fact that the LAW is something that is always changing and evolving as well. And here’s a VERY important PIECE of this dialectical PICTURE of reality: our understanding of what something IS…is ALWAYS in terms of dialectical OPPOSITIONS and how they relate to each other. Put a different way: our understanding of what something is is always INTRINSICALLY tied together with the thing that it is not. You CANNOT have an understanding of something without making REFERENCE to it’s dialectical opposite. OBVIOUSLY we need an example here to clear this up: let’s use the example of the LAW that the government’s supposed to be enforcing for us. And the law is a COMMON example used here to explain this concept, this ISN’T mine. You CAN’T have an understanding of what the LAW is…without ALSO having an understanding of what a TRANSGRESSION is. The LAWS we put in place that people need to ABIDE by are DIRECTLY CONNECTED to the BEHAVIORS that we see as transgressions. You USED to be able to beat your kids and it was legal. Society changed…now it’s more FROWNED upon to beat your children and we have a LAW against it. Similarly with things that USED to be illegal, for example, witchcraft. Few hundred years ago…that was a serious problem. You could be burned at the stake…but in today’s society to the average person if you’re a witch…you’re MOSTLY…just a weirdo. But a lovable weirdo, that’s the thing you never meet any WICKED witches in today’s world they’re all pretty nice. Point is: COMPLICATED factors, social, political, economic, individual psychology…ALL this goes IN to what MAKES any one thing a transgression or not…and as our understanding of what a transgression is evolves so does our understanding of the LAW and our understanding of the LAW feeds into our understanding of what a transgression is. The way to PUT this in Dialectical terms: is that the evolution or development of ANY THING, like the Law…REQUIRES it’s negation. Its dialectical opposite or its dialectical contradiction. Every THING carries WITHIN it… its own contradiction. As well as every POSITION. As well as every SOCIAL institution. Consider the example from LAST episode of a New Atheist. Again from one, SIMPLE way of looking at reality you can ask WHAT is a New Atheist? Oh, well that’s just someone that doesn’t believe in a God. And is that even a way to DESCRIBE a person? I also don’t believe in UNICORNS…do I need a special NAME you give me for THAT lack of belief? But to SAY that makes it START to seem like there’s a lack of self-AWARENESS there…because there IS a sense where a New Atheist is DEFINED by their cultural NEGATION or dialectical opposite. Consider another culture living on an alien planet somewhere…and on this planet they HAVE the concept of a God…but NOBODY in the HISTORY of that planet has EVER attributed to that God some sort of moral plan that it has for people to follow. The God on this planet is SIMPLY a CREATIVE, metaphysical BLOB that BROUGHT things into existence. Well if somebody called themselves an ATHEIST on that PLANET…they’d be NEGATING something TOTALLY DIFFERENT than what a NEW ATHEIST is negating on OUR planet. The FACT IS: something VERY IMPORTANT to a New Atheist… is that they don’t want IRON AGE superstition smuggled into political structures and crammed into children’s heads in schools where all the people that DON’T believe in it just have to sit back and be held hostage. Our understanding of the GOD of the Abrahamic religions is ironically a BIG PART OF BEING what a new Atheist is. To put it as a metaphor: when it comes to something like the LAW…it is the NEGATION, TRANSGRESSION in our example…that is the ENGINE that DRIVES our understanding of the law forward. If you don’t CONSIDER its negation, then our understanding of the LAW is going to more or less stay the same. And now to take dialectics yet ANOTHER… level deeper as a way of understanding reality: NOW it’s important for us to consider that something like the law…doesn’t just have ONE dialectical opposite. That’s right EVEN if we consider all the complexity up until this point. Even if we consider that things in the world are in a CONSTANT state of change…and that they’re ALWAYS being affected by internal and external tensions and how its INTERTWINED ALWAYS within a larger system, and even if we consider that our UNDERSTANDINGS of things rely on an ever-changing relationship between the thing AND its contradiction…it’s NOT AS SIMPLE as just well if we have an understanding of what a transgression is and THAT evolves then our understanding of the LAW will evolve as WELL! No depending on the context and the perspective that you VIEW the law from…it will change what the opposition is: Law vs transgression may be the PRIMARY opposition. But how about Law vs Freedom? Law vs Justice? Law vs Anarchy? Law vs Tradition? MANY MORE obviously depending on the context you’re examining it in. And now CONSIDER just how MANY of these dynamic, ever-changing tensions and negotiations are going ON in a GIVEN society ALL THE TIME. Freedom vs Oppression. As our understanding of what is oppressive evolves… so does our understanding of freedom. Freedom vs Security in the tech realm. Individual vs Society. Technology vs Nature. Globalization vs Nationalism. And how about the fact that dialectics goes far deeper than even THIS. That things aren’t CHANGING at the same rate all the time obviously…and that you gotta pay attention to how quickly or slowly these interactions are changing things…and what if I told you that when I look at you…I’m disappointed quite frankly. You out there listening to this have a very SIMPLE WAY of viewing reality. You’re just not TRYING hard enough…what you gotta do is you gotta start looking at EVERY RELATIONSHIP between things in this ever changing dialectical way, you gotta take some time off of work, you gotta spend your vacations every year RESEARCHING these relationships, and if I told you that…you’d probably be like no. No thank you. I’m not gonna SPEND every SECOND of my life examining the world dialectically. I guess I’m a bad person. And you FEEL that feeling inside your stomach of how DAUNTING actually doing that would BE? THAT feeling…is why ideology is so effective. Again what ideology GIVES you is a set of SHORTCUTS…where you DON’T need to consider the true COMPLEXITY of all these moving parts…it often gives you a purely POSITIVE worldview, which means it DOESN’T consider the NEGATIONS that drive your understanding, and in the sense that NEGATIONS are the ENGINE that MOVES our understanding of things forward…it allows you to just sit comfortably, as a subject, in that purely POSITIVE place, maintaining the EXISTING social order. And that’s the point. Things don’t CHANGE without their negation. And if you FOUND yourself EXISTING in a society where there was NO TRUE OPPOSITION to an underlying ORDER of things powered by liberal democratic capitalism…if the political landscape was made up of a bunch of people arguing about how to MAINTAIN the existing system…how MANY police and national guards do we need to round up the mentally ill and homeless on the streets, not what CAUSES homelessness and mental illness. How do we get kids to STOP going on Tiktok and social media, not what system COMMODIFIES their attention and psychological development. Again if there WAS no opposition then the public UNDERSTANDING of these systems wouldn’t develop. But…in a dialectical way…liberal democratic capitalism would ALWAYS be changing and adapting. And constantly changing shape based on it’s relationship to everything else going on around it. Again to the point that today to Zizek: CAPITALISM…doesn’t even NEED DEMOCRACY anymore to be the arbiter of people’s THINKING. Capitalism may not even need the GOVERNMENT at some point…people are already talking about versions of techno feudalism…which we could certainly do an episode on if it was something people out there were requesting. Real quickly…there’s another concept in dialectics of Quantitative vs Qualitative CHANGES in a system… OVER a long enough period of time. The idea is: You watch something change long enough…thatthere’s a very good possibility that things change in a QUANTITATIVE way enough… that the thing turns into something that looks VERY different qualitatively. Common example that’s given is to think about a SEED and how if you watched it grow over TIME…eventually enough of these small changes have added up over time that it transforms into something completely different…like a full grown plant that looks ENTIRELY different, BEHAVES differently, gets sustenance differently, and now produces it’s OWN seeds and spreads itself around. Applying this to the example we gave of the law…there’s no guarantee that something like Hammurabi’s code in the city of Babylon looks anything REMOTELY like, or even AIMS for the same things as the modern legal system in the western world. You have to pay attention to the structural transformations that have gone on over time and DIALECTICS is the way to DO this. This same idea even applies when it comes to the things changing AROUND a particular thing. Another example that’s used when talking about this is to think of water. On one hand water is always h2o…two hydrogen atoms and an oxygen atom. But depending on certain conditions SURROUNDING those atoms, temperature, pressure, the specific configuration of the molecules… QUANTITATIVE changes like that will change it QUALITATIVELY from a liquid, solid or gas. This is another example of dialectics considering ALL of the FACTORS involved in determining what something is in any given moment. But to bring this conversation BACK to where we started with all this: to Zizek…Fukuyama was wrong. There IS no CULMINATION into an ultimate political ideology. There is no end to history in that sense. In fact to Zizek…what Hegel MEANT by ABSOLUTE KNOWLEDGE…was the opposite: to accept that there CAN BE NO, totalizing, FINAL form of knowledge or political system. That IS what absolute knowledge is: is EMBRACING the dialectical process as never ending. We will ALWAYS be in a place where the facts and our understanding of reality are in a state of negotiation and tension. The TRUTH in other words…is in the process to Zizek. Though what’s ALSO true to Zizek…is that we NEED IDEOLOGY to be able to function. We NEED ideology… EVEN after being made AWARE that it is ideology. Because this is what Zizek will sometimes call the FETISH version of ideology, a common way we’re starting to see people USE it these days he says, where ideology becomes something similar to a psychological COPING mechanism. See ideology has EVOLVED into something to Zizek…where like we talked about at the beginning it’s NOT JUST the things you believe, NOT JUST what you exclude…and it’s NOT JUST the things you believe that you DON’T know that you believe like some OTHER commentators have suggested. Ideology to Zizek has become something where you believe it…you’re TOLD about it…you KNOW that it’s ideology…and yet you STILL behave in a way as though you DON’T KNOW that it’s ideology. Ideology becomes something you use to DISTANCE yourself from the reality of the world around you. The PAIN you would otherwise feel. He tells a story sometimes of a friend of his…that a few years ago had a wife who tragically got cancer, fell ill and died. And on the other SIDE of this…this FRIEND of his… it was a shock to a lot of the people in his immediate circles…because the guy seemed to be handling it all pretty easily…he seemed fine…he’d be taking care of the hamster that his wife and him used to have as a pet before she died. But then as Zizek says about six months later that HAMSTER died…and ONLY THEN… did the guy have a major psychological breakdown. The question Zizek has for people that USE ideology in this way is what is YOUR hamster? What is the thing that ALLOWS you to DISTANCE yourself from reality? If Tiktok and Netflix and Alcohol and Gambling and extravagant food and video games if EVERYTHING like that ceased to exist TOMORROW…would people suddenly care more about the reality around them? Would you have different political candidates? It’s not a rhetorical question or whoa GOTCHA there’s an obvious answer…it’s genuine how much do you think would change? As we get into the more PSYCHOLOGICAL side to Zizek NEXT episode…we’ll talk about it more. Hope you enjoyed this one. As always thanks for sharing what you love. Thank you for listening. I’ll talk to you next time.

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