Authentic Radical Fundamentalism ?

I’ve just thoroughly read and re-read a piece by Slavoj Zizek in The Cabinet entitled “From Western Marxism to Western Buddhism“. Zizek is on my “must read” list for various reasons, so this was a good start, and I quoted briefly from this particuar piece in responding to Chris Locke’s reference to it in his blog header. Not always clear when Chris is piling on the irony, and dare I say sarcasm, exactly how many levels of irony you are dealing with, but I read Chris as approving of the sentiments Zizek expresses here. If that is the case, then I’m agreeing with both.

Zizek is pointing out the falacy, the fetish, in one group holding a view of another somehow distinctly “other” remote, distant, lost in time in possessing some superior wisdom, resulting in a kind of jealousy, both a wish for it and a negative reaction against it. Both equally irrational – a fetish. Zizek is a man after my own heart in his liberal use of “scare quotes” – “rational” being one of the words frequently couched that way.

Zizek is referring to the “West vs East” fetish in particular, and uses Tibet / Lhasa as a specific object illustration of this fetishism. But he also reminds us that this is as old as the Greeks revering the Egyptians, the Romans the Greeks, the classicisits the Romans & Greeks, the Westerners the Eastern, and so on. “Twas ever thus” I must have said a million times, and it’s been said for over 4000 years itself. Zizek’s actual target is the debate bewteen moral majority fundamentalists and tolerant multicuturalists.  He has two main points.

One is that the fetish and its symptoms are so close as to be almost interchangable, yet secondly the whole of both is concerned principally with the focus on otherness. This paradox is real and worth serious consideration. A pox on both their houses he says …

The conclusion to be drawn from this is a simple and radical one: Moral Majority fundamentalists and tolerant multiculturalists are two sides of the same coin: they both share a fascination with the Other. In the Moral Majority, this fascination displays the envious hatred of the Other’s excessive jouissance, while the multiculturalist tolerance of the Other’s Otherness is also more twisted than it may appear—it is sustained by a secret desire for the Other to remain “other,” not to become too much like us. In contrast to both these positions, the only truly tolerant attitude towards the Other is that of the authentic radical fundamentalist.

OK so again, the conclusion is that dichotomous choice is no choice, throwing out babies with the bathwater is an acknowledgement of the reality of babies. Rejecting eastern wisdom is an acknowledgement of the reality of eastern wisdom for example. Atheism is an acknowledgement of the reality of theism, Denial of global warming is an acknowledgement of global wearming as an issue, etc … pick your favourite world-scale (dichotomous) debate.

The fact that either side is making a living “marketing” its side of any such debate is a hypochrisy we all share so long as standing for something is seen as taking sides.

[Aside, interesting reading Gibbon, as I still am, is seeing that the persecution of Christians and their one supreme god was a primary motivator for their success.]

Question is what is “authentic radical fundamentalism” ?
(Sounds like neo-pragmatic / radical-empiricism maybe ?)
Need to read more Zizek. Marketing works 😉

4 thoughts on “Authentic Radical Fundamentalism ?”

  1. Levels of irony aside (I do know what you mean), yes (or no!) I was agreeing with Zizek — at least inasmuch as my sound-bite grasp of his Higher Purpose (now there’s irony for you! there’s sarcasm!) will allow. My understanding is shallow, no false modesty about it. But I certainly agree with the bit I quote at the top of Mystic B: “New Age ‘Asiatic’ thought … is establishing itself as the hegemonic ideology of global capitalism.” He says more about this sort of thing in Interrogating the Real – in the chapter titled “Lacan Between Cultural Studies and Cognitivism,” especially the section (c) “Cognitivist Buddhism” (p. 101). I bought the book just to read that bit, but now I’ve lost the freaking book in the chaos of my slummy apartment and so I really have no idea what he’s on about there. Seems you can read pretty much the entire chapter on Google Books…

    re your “Rejecting eastern wisdom is an acknowledgement of the reality of eastern wisdom” — I think not, if you mean what I think you mean. Rejecting any “wisdom” qua wisdom is a refusal to accept the fundamental axiom that said wisdom is in fact wise. Spending time unpacking the axiom is, yes, an acknowledgment that such “wisdom” (and the general whoring after same) has large and important cultural implications, but is not an acknowledgment of its capital-T Truth or right to be revered as holy, wonderful, or even halfway — since you brought it up — sane. By caveatizing the emptor, one is not endorsing the con.

    Similarly with “The fact that either side is making a living ‘marketing’ its side of any such debate is a hypochrisy [sic] we all share so long as standing for something is seen as taking sides.”

    While I don’t think anyone would say that what I’m doing qualifies as “making a living,” I have definitely taken sides, and I hardly see that as hypocritical. (HYPER-critical I will accept.) I am, however, surely “marketing” the notion that many if not all of these currently off-the-charts-popular mystical handwavings should be explored, unpacked, examined, and yes, thoroughly interrogated (though I have no clue whether that’s what Zizek means by the term; sounds cool in any case). And, as I have said before, I suspect that it’s not the bathwater that need tossing, but that goddam BABY!

    peace out, etc.


  2. Hi Chris,
    I’m guessing from your comments you noticed also a couple of follow up Zizek posts to this one.

    That Zizek chapter you refer to is pretty heavy when it comes to Lacan’s take on the subjective “I” mind & physical world subject … this together with free will and causation generally are core subjects for me. Not sure I can do justice to a reaction to that in a post comment. I absolutely reject one statement in there that “scientific cognition tells us that there is no self or free will”. It tells us nothing of the sort.

    This is the subject in this thread. “Taking sides”. You are correct not to accept when I said “Rejecting eastern wisdom is an acknowledgement of the reality of eastern wisdom” that I meant anything like the other extreme “eastern wisdom” is “The Truth” … far from it. I am saying the axis between rejecting and accepting eastern wisdom is an important one – wisdom lies somewhere on this axis. A western wisdom that rejects eastern wisdom is not wise. Neither extreme is wise.

    In fact Zizek makes this point even more strongly in The Empty Wheelbarrow. The mistake is to take sides, to choose an end of such axes is the real “evil” as I quoted here

    PS That chapter “Lacan between cultural studies and cognitivism” is very interesting … on the “third culture” intellectuals. Some things I will respond to in a separate post.

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