(Updated Sep. 1)
An oft-repeated reproach to Slavoj Zizek’s writings is that he’s impossible to understand. In fact, Zizek is sometimes held as an example of a decades-old trend of academic meaninglessness; for example, in this recent article, Nathan J. Robinson shrewdly accuses Zizek of always defending himself against critics by claiming to have been misunderstood.
The fact is: on this point, Zizek’s critics are often right; Zizek is often hard to understand. And this, I claim, is intended. Zizek, like many other philosophers throughout history, is obscuring his points and stances in order to make them palatable for the ruling ideology, while still understandable for those paying attention (hopefully me and those reading this!). Let me explain.
The keyword here is esotericism. These days, this word is commonly misused for things vaguely related to the spiritual world of ghosts and suchlike; what “esoteric” refers to, strictly speaking, is…
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