I’m reprinting Slavoj Žižek’s (copyright-free) analysis of the events in Iran, which were forwarded to Infinite Thought by Ali Alizadeh, who I mentioned in a recent post. It’s vintage Žižek: by turns provocative, unpredictable, overwrought, and brilliant, in its verve if not necessarily its accuracy, though I think he gets it mostly right. I would read Tamim Ansari’s Iran’s Regime: Marching Toward A Cliff alongside this piece; Ansari provides some useful background on the social currents involved in these Iranian events and those of 1979. Also, the Independent’s Robert Fisk continues to provide a reasonable countercurrent to most everything that comes out in the popular western press; see, for instance, this piece on fantasy and reality in Iran.
Will the cat above the precipice fall down?
by Slavoj Žižek
When an authoritarian regime approaches its final crisis, its dissolution as a rule follows two steps. Before its actual collapse, a mysterious rupture takes place: all of a sudden people know that the game is over, they are simply no longer afraid. It is not only that the regime loses its legitimacy, its exercise of power itself is perceived as an impotent panic reaction. We all know the classic scene from cartoons: the cat reaches a precipice, but it goes on walking, ignoring the fact that there is no ground under its feet; it starts to fall only when it looks down and notices the abyss. When it loses its authority, the regime is like a cat above the precipice: in order to fall, it only has to be reminded to look down…