Ethics and Politics

From No Subject - Encyclopedia of Psychoanalysis
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Although Zizek tries to isolate a certain emancipatory kenrel of religion, he emphasizes that he is an absolute materialist.

One of the trends to which he is very mcuh opposed is the recent post-secular theological turn of deconstruction; the idea being that while there is no ontotheological God there is nonetheless some kind of unconditional ethical injunction up to which we cannot ever live.

What re-emerges here is a split between ethics and politics. Ethics stands for the unconditional injunction which you can never fulfil and so you have to accept the gap between unconditional injunction and the always contingent failed interventions that you make. Ethics becomes the domain of the unconditional, spectrality, Otherness and so on, whereas politics consists of practical interventions. This Levinasian Otherness can then be forumalted directly as the divine dimension, or it can be forumalted just as the messianic utopian dimension inherent to language as such and so on.


Zizek thinks Lacanian ethics breaks out of this. Lacan cannot be incorporated into this paradigm. What LAcan does is rpecisely to assert the radical politicization of ethics; not in the sense tat ethics should be subordianted to power struggles, but in terms of accepting radical contingency. THe elementary political position is one that affirms this contingency and this means that you don not have any guarantee in any norms whatsoever. You have to risk and to decide. This is the lesson of Lacan. DO not compromise your desire. Do not look for support in any form of big Other. You must risk the act without guarantee.

In this sense the ultimate foundation of ethics is political. And for Lacan, depoliticized ethics is an ethical betrayal because you put the blame on the Other. Depoliticized ethics means that you rely on some figure of the big Other. But the Lacanian act is precisely the act in which you assum e that there is no big Other.