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Did Somebody Say Totalitarianism? Four Interventions in the (Mis)Use of a Notion
From No Subject
Totalitarianism, as an ideological notion, has always had a precise strategic function: to guarantee the liberal-democratic hegemony by dismissing the Leftist critique of liberal democracy as the obverse, the twin, of the Rightist Fascist dictatorships.
Instead of providing yet another systematic exposition of the history of this notion, Zizek ’s new book addresses totalitarianism in a Wittgensteinian way, as a cobweb of family resemblances. In so doing it reveals the prevalence of the consensus-view of totalitarianism, in which it is invariably defined by one of the following four things: the holocaust as the ultimate, diabolical evil; the Stalinist gulag as the alleged truth of the Socialist revolutionary project; the recent wave of ethnic and religious fundamentalisms to be fought through multiculturalist tolerance; or the deconstructionist idea that the ultimate root of totalitarianism is the ontological closure of thought, the denial of the irreducible gap in human existence.
Zizek concludes that the devil lies not so much in the detail of what constitutes totalitarianism but in what enables the very designation totalitarian, the liberal-democratic consensus itself.