“Fighting Our Fantasies” and Hegelian Negation

In the chapter entitled “Fighting Our Fantasies: Dark City and the Politics of Psychoanalysis,” Todd McGowan denotes that Zizek draws a “connection between contemporary Lacanian analysis of culture and political action” (145). To be clear, McGowan offers this in relation to Fredric Jameson’s own critique of Zizek’s implied position, which is that there is a relationship between the two, even though, as McGowan contends, it is “a concrete delineation of the nature of this relationship seems conspicuously absent from [Zizek’s] work and the work of fellow Lacanian theorists” (145). As absent as this might be from Zizek and other Lacanian theorists, there is no question that (pure) Marxism informs Zizek as much as post-Kantianism undoubtedly is in the background of other pure Lacanians. The juncture where Zizek and his fellow Lacanian theorists meet is at Hegelianism–the degree to which there exists, as McGowan suggests, a “connection between contemporary  Lacanian analysis of culture and political action” is situated in Hegel’s notion of negation.

“Negation,” for Hegel, is a component of dialectics. This dialectic–in Hegel’s version–is based on three parts: the abstract, the negation, and the concrete. The relatedness between these parts revolves mainly around the dialectical tension between “the abstract” and “the negation,” which, as a result of dialectical tension, opens the possibility for “the concrete.” Though not necessarily different from Kant’s version–“thesis-antithesis-synthesis”–Hegel’s version highlights the role that “negation” plays in how well (or how badly) “the abstract” becomes concretized. To this end, Zizek can be read through what I call “Hegelian negation,” especially if any Lacanian analysis of culture is existentially dependent–that is, as a way of making-meaning–on political action. But, more importantly, since Zizek is particularly indebted to Marxism, Zizek’s notions of “culture” and “political action” are both ideologically linked to Hegelianism, even if that link is charted through Marxism (and the Marxist dialectic). As a result, any sense that we are “fighting our fantasies” is, as Zizek would likely agree, a fight against “negation” and the desire to convert “the abstract” into “the concrete.” Our “fantasies” suppress us in “the abstract” by way of “negation”–to fight these “fantasies” means, simply, recognizing that “negation” exists and that “the abstract” does lend anything of existential value, if we are to align this “fight” either as Heideggerian or Sartrean.

While Heidegger suggests that “negation” can always be concretized, particularly through recognizing the analytic possibilities of Dasein, Sartre argued that “negation” may not always be overcome, since choice opens the possibility of choosing meaninglessness (or living an existence where one remains in “the abstract.” So, if understanding how differently Heidegger and Sartre approach Hegelian negation, is it safe to assume that Zizek has not necessarily chosen one route over the other, but has, instead, ajudicated between the two, with marrying Lacanian psychoanalysis with Marxist thought–this adjudication is especially apparent in Zizek drawing a relationship between culture and political action.

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