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Disparities, dualities, dialectics, and the divided self

Philosophical trickster, Slovenian Communist, Slavoj Žižek has produced another book – “Disparities”. In this, as usual, he goes over old ground.


slavoj-zizekSteve Latham


As in his earlier book, “Parallax”, Žižek advances the dialectical theory, that complementaries reveal truth.”

Actuality embraces paradox, a view from many directions and perspectives. The truth lies in the manifold viewpoint.

Furthermore, reality itself, he writes in “Disparities”, is itself fractured, broken, manifesting incompatible elements.

Things do not fit, consistently, into concrete reality; even more so when we seek to conceptualise that reality. For Žižek, such ‘contradictions’ support his historical materialism.

The potential of our economic productivity, could guarantee prosperity for all. But how it is organised simultaneously prevents this possibility.

It is essential for us to realise this as part of our experience, and not to filter it out, in search of some non-contradictory whole. There are always bits left out.

This is not new. For example, Catholic theology argued for the harmonious good of society, as did the Confucian model of culture.

didsparities-slavoj-zizekIn contrast, the Radical Reformation approach, of the Anabaptists, questioned the entire edifice; and made faith into something personally chosen, rather than inherited through membership of society.

This led to a dualism of light and dark, world and church, the kingdom of God and that of the devil; the maintenance of integral antithesis.

Eventually, their chiliastic anticipation of the heavenly kingdom on earth led, in a round-about way, to the rise of the Communist hope, the classless society.

This too, however, was predicated, in Marx’s mind, on an analysis of inherent contradictions within the capitalist system

As the structure creaked under the strain, the forces of production would outstrip the existing relations of production.

That is, the way society is organised would no longer be adequate to release the forces for liberation emerging within it. Revolution would be needed. When R. D. Laing described “The divided Self”, he saw it as something pathological. Whereas, to have a divided mind is crucial for progress.

It’s the feeling that one doesn’t belong, the perception that the times are out of joint. The experience is similar to William James’ terms: ‘once-born’ and ’twice-born’.

These described two kinds of religious consciousness. The former feel at home in the world, and adopt a peaceful, world-affirming, faith.

slavoj-zizek-wikimedia-commonsThe latter feel they don’t belong, susceptible to spiritual crises and conversions. But it is these ‘twice born’, who initiate the new.

From his or her homelessness, and uneasiness, the potential for something fresh is germinated. It is they who notice the way in which society does not make sense.

This is not their failing, rather they are recognising the ill-fit within existence itself. Today our world careers toward chaos, with the decisions made by UK and US electorates.

We shall need people to see and speak-out the contradictions of our time. As George Bernard Shaw quipped:

“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”

(Photos: Wikimedia Commons)


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