Zizek, Slavoj

Zizek, Slavoj
▪ 2009

born March 21, 1949, Ljubljana, Yugos. (now in Slovenia)

      In 2008 Slovene postmodern philosopher and cultural theorist Slavoj Zizek, who was called an “intellectual rock star,” a “stand-up philosopher,” and “the Elvis of cultural theory,” published two more works expounding on his theories: In Defense of Lost Causes and Violence: Big Ideas/Small Books. These were the latest offerings in the prolific author's oeuvre.

      Zizek was educated at the University of Ljubljana, where he was awarded bachelor's (1971), master's (1975), and doctor's (1981) degrees in philosophy, with a focus on German idealism. Offered an opportunity to study psychoanalysis at the University of Paris–VIII under Jacques-Alain Miller (a son-in-law and student of French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan), Zizek completed a second Ph.D. (1985) in psychoanalysis. Zizek's deviation from orthodox Yugoslav Marxism negatively affected his early academic career, but from 1979 he was a researcher and professor at Ljubljana. He served as international director of the Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities in London, a returning faculty member at the European Graduate School in Saas-Fee, Switz., and visiting professor at numerous universities in Europe and the U.S. He founded (1982) and was president of the Society for Theoretical Psychoanalysis in Ljubljana. In 2007 the online peer-reviewed open-access International Journal of Zizek Studies was launched.

      After coming to international attention with The Sublime Object of Ideology (1989), Zizek was a major influence and source of controversy in the realms of postmodernist philosophy and cultural studies. His reading of classical German philosophy (Immanuel Kant, Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph von Schelling, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, and Karl Marx) through the lens of the Lacanian subject—enhanced by his lucid writing style and charismatic lecturing—stimulated many contemporary thinkers, but his criticisms of current academic fashions such as political correctness, the obsession with difference, and postmodern attacks on the Enlightenment aroused considerable hostility toward him. Some of his major works include Repeating Lenin (1997), The Ticklish Subject: The Absent Centre of Political Ontology (1999), Organs Without Bodies: On Deleuze and Consequences (2003), Iraq: The Borrowed Kettle (2004), and The Parallax View (2006).

      Active in Slovene politics, Zizek in the 1980s was involved in the democratic opposition movement, writing a column for the newspaper Mladina, and in 1990 he finished fifth in the election for the four-person presidency of Slovenia, which declared independence from Yugoslavia in 1991. From that year he was Slovene ambassador of science.

      A motion picture enthusiast who wrote much about the medium, Zizek was filmed talking about philosophy in Slavoj Zizek: The Reality of the Virtual (2004), was the subject of the feature documentary Zizek! (2005), and wrote and presented the British television documentary The Pervert's Guide to Cinema (2006).

Martin L. White

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Universalium. 2010.

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