RSS | Archive | Random

About

A blog for marxians and martians.
A reading group based in 02138.

Seek


Tags

Following

9 April 09

Žižek and the chocolate laxative

Today’s hedonism combines pleasure with constraint — it is no longer the old notion of the “right measure” between pleasure and constraint, but a kind of pseudo-Hegelian immediate coincidence of the opposites: action and reaction should coincide, the very thing which causes damage should already be the medicine. The ultimate example of it is arguably a chocolate laxative, available in the US, with the paradoxical injunction “Do you have constipation? Eat more of this chocolate!”, i.e., of the very thing which causes constipation. Do we not find here a weird version of Wagner’s famous “Only the spear which caused the wound can heal it" from Parsifal? And is not a negative proof of the hegemony of this stance the fact that true unconstrained consumption (in all its main forms: drugs, free sex, smoking…) is emerging as the main danger? The fight against these dangers is one of the main investments of today’s “biopolitics.” Solutions are here desperately sought which would reproduce the paradox of the chocolate laxative. The main contender is “safe sex” — a term which makes one appreciative of the truth of the old saying “Is having sex with a condom not like taking a shower with a raincoat on?”. The ultimate goal would be here, along the lines of decaf coffee, to invent “opium without opium”: no wonder marijuana is so popular among liberals who want to legalize it — it already IS a kind of “opium without opium.”

"The structure of the "chocolate laxative,” of a product containing the agent of its own containment, can be discerned throughout today’s ideological landscape. There are two topics which determine today’s liberal tolerant attitude towards Others: the respect of Otherness, openness towards it, AND the obsessive fear of harassment — in short, the Other is OK insofar as its presence is not intrusive, insofar as the Other is not really Other… A similar structure is clearly present in how we relate to capitalist profiteering: it is OK IF it is counteracted with charitable activities — first you amass billions, then you return (part of) them to the needy… And the same goes for war, for the emergent logic of humanitarian or pacifist militarism: war is OK insofar as it really serves to bring about peace, democracy, or to create conditions for distributing humanitarian help. And does the same not hold more and more even for democracy: it is OK if it is “rethought” to include torture and a permanent emergency state, if it is cleansed of its populist “excesses,” and if the people are “mature” enough to live by it…”  Homo Sacer as the Object of the Discourse of the University,” Lacanian Ink, 25 September 2003.

************

"Today, we are offered many products deprived of their malignant property: coffee without caffeine, cream without fat, beer without alcohol. The list goes on: the Colin Powell doctrine of warfare with no casualties could be seen as warfare without warfare, the redefinition of politics as the art of expert administration and tolerant multiculturalism as an experience of the Other deprived of its Otherness.

"Is this not the attitude of the hedonistic Last Man? Everything is permitted, you can enjoy everything so long as it is deprived of the substance that makes it dangerous. Today’s hedonism combines pleasure with constraint - it is no longer the old notion of the "right measure" between pleasure and constraint, but a kind of pseudo-Hegelian immediate coincidence of opposites, with action and reaction coinciding. The ultimate example is arguably a chocolate laxative, available in the US, with the paradoxical injunction: "Do you have constipation? Eat more of this chocolate!". Eat, that is, the very thing that causes constipation. The structure of the "chocolate laxative”, of a product containing the agent of its own containment, can be discerned throughout today’s ideological landscape. Two topics determine today’s liberal tolerant attitude towards Others: respect of and openness to Otherness and obsessive fear of harassment - in short, the Other is OK in so far as its presence is not intrusive, in so far as the Other is not really Other. So my duty to be tolerant towards the Other means, in effect, that I should not get too close to him/her, not intrude into his/her space - in short, that I should respect his/ her intolerance towards my overproximity. This is what is emerging more and more as the central “human right” in late capitalist society: the “right not to be”, that is, to be kept at a safe distance from Others.”  “Iraq war, chips and chocolate laxatives" for the Times Higher Education supplement, 30 January 2004.

************

"…how false is the official position that we live in a permissive society of consumption where you just consume until you drop, and so on. No, I think that if there is something which is paradigmatic for today’s society, it’s phenomena like decaffeinated coffee. You can consume coffee, but it should be decaf. Have beer, but without alcohol. Have dessert, but without sugar. Get the thing deprived of its substance. And the way this interests me is not only at this personal level. What is safe sex, but another name for sex without? It makes me almost sympathetic to that famous racist notion in Europe, where they ask an African guy, "With such a high rate of AIDS, why don’t you use more condoms?" and he responds, "It’s like taking a shower with a raincoat on." But I tend to agree with it [chuckling], I’m sorry. Even war follows this logic. What’s Colin Powell’s doctrine if not war without war? War, but with no casualties on our side, of course. And I could go on. The emblematic product of all these phenomena is a chocolate laxative, laxative in the form of chocolate. Chocolate is perceived, at least in the popular imagination, as the main cause of constipation. So, advertisers devised a wonderful publicity slogan: still constipated, no problem, have another portion of chocolate. No wonder, then, that there is such a movement for, among some so-called radicals, to liberate the consumption of marijuana. Marijuana is precisely kind of a decaf coffee - opium, without opium. You can have it, but not fully. The paradox for me, in this sense, is that precisely by dedicating your life to a full assertion of life, life’s pleasures, you pay a price.”   “Liberation Hurts,” Interview with Eric Dean Rasmussen, 1 July 2004.

************

"There is a chocolate-flavoured laxative available on the shelves of US stores which is publicised with the paradoxical injunction: Do you have constipation? Eat more of this chocolate! – i.e. eat more of something that itself causes constipation. The structure of the chocolate laxative can be discerned throughout today’s ideological landscape; it is what makes a figure like Soros so objectionable. He stands for ruthless financial exploitation combined with its counter-agent, humanitarian worry about the catastrophic social consequences of the unbridled market economy. […]  We should have no illusions: liberal communists are the enemy of every true progressive struggle today.”  Slavoj Žižek, “Nobody has to be vile,” for the London Review of Books, 6 April 2006.

************

"Good old Andrew Carnegie employed a private army brutally to suppress organised labour in his steelworks and then distributed large parts of his wealth to education, artistic, and humanitarian causes.  A man of steel, he proved that he had a heart of gold.  In the same way, today’s liberal communists give away with one hand what they first took with the other.  This brings to mind a chocolate laxative available in the U.S.  It is publicised with the paradoxical injunction: “Do you have constipation?  Eat more of this chocolate!”  In other wordsm eat the very thing that causes constipation in order to be cured of it.”  Violence, 2008: 21

************

Chocolate under investigation as cure for diabetes.  The BBC reports.

Tags: zizek
blog comments powered by Disqus
Themed by Hunson. Originally by Josh