Financial crisis, Social pathologies and 'generalised perversion' : questioning Zizek's diagnosis of the times

Boucher, Geoff and Sharpe, Matthew 2011, Financial crisis, Social pathologies and 'generalised perversion' : questioning Zizek's diagnosis of the times, New formations : a journal of culture / theory / politics, vol. 72, no. 2, pp. 64-79, doi: 10.3898/NEWF.72.05.2011.

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Title Financial crisis, Social pathologies and 'generalised perversion' : questioning Zizek's diagnosis of the times
Author(s) Boucher, GeoffORCID iD for Boucher, Geoff
Sharpe, MatthewORCID iD for Sharpe, Matthew
Journal name New formations : a journal of culture / theory / politics
Volume number 72
Issue number 2
Start page 64
End page 79
Total pages 16
Publisher Lawrence & Wishart Ltd
Place of publication London, England
Publication date 2011
ISSN 0950-2378
Keyword(s) Zizek
Summary Slavoj Zizek's work has been highly influential in the formulation of an emerging consensus among Lacanian social researchers, that we live in a society of generalised perversion whose initial fruits are the corrosion of democracy and the recent financial crisis. This position rests upon a notion of modern subjectivity that connects ‘commodity fetishism’ with clinical perversion in a pathological configuration, so that social theoretical identification of crisis tendencies, evaluative language about moral problems and diagnostic categories from the Lacanian clinic can be combined in a single figure. In this article, we question the series of conceptual links that constitute this position, tracing them from Zizek’s critique in his short work on the global financial crisis and his broader restatement of this analysis in the recent Living in the End Times, through the moment of his announcement of the notion of ‘generalised perversion’ in The Ticklish Subject, all the way back to fundamental propositions outlined in his earliest work. Our argument progresses through three claims. First, we show in the evolution of this position that it leads Zizek to equivocate in his diagnosis of contemporary society between two mutually exclusive categories (‘psychosis’ and ‘perversion’), indicating an antinomy in his work that is resolved in favour of ‘generalised perversion’ on empirical, not logical, grounds. Secondly, we offer a critical resolution of the antinomy through a critique of what we argue is Zizek’s mistaken over-extension of psychoanalytic reason beyond its legitimate scope of application. Finally, we point to some of the political implications of the way that Zizek speculatively resolves his logical difficulties, by analysing the consequences of his claim that generalised social perversion - the problem to be solved - involves a dethroning of the communal ego ideal. A communitarian streak, implicit in the potential conflation of moral denunciation with psychoanalytic diagnosis that the rhetoric of ‘perversion’ invokes, runs through Zizek’s work on capitalism, we propose in conclusion.
Language eng
DOI 10.3898/NEWF.72.05.2011
Field of Research 220318 Psychoanalytic Philosophy
Socio Economic Objective 970122 Expanding Knowledge in Philosophy and Religious Studies
HERDC Research category C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal
HERDC collection year 2011
Copyright notice ©2011, Lawrence Wishart Ltd.
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