Slavoj Zizek’s engagement with theologians like radical orthodoxist John Milbank continues to perplex me a little bit, but having heard him speak a few days ago with death-of-God theologian Thomas Altizer at the American Academy of Religion meeting in Montreal left me reassured me that Zizek is far from the wildest (and zaniest) mind out there. Altizer’s voice thundered through the Palais des Congres conference room as he corralled Hegel and William Blake into a kind of ecstatic rave-up on Satan and the self-annihilation of God. I’m not familiar enough with Altizer’s thinking to judge it, but it sounded a little to me like taking two parts X (in this case, Hegel), one part Y (Blake), and sprinkling in some N and M (Nietzsche and Jung?) just to see what will come of it (something, I think, about spirit’s immanence in the world through the self-annihilation of God via Christ). [sentence deleted out of respect]*
But Zizek’s big argument was the same as ever: that the relativists, postmodernists, multiculturalists, holists, pagans, buddhists, relationalists, Deleuzians, and even deconstructive theologians like John Caputo (addressed directly) are all wrong, and are really just propping up the illusory Big Other instead of releasing us into the revolutionary moment, and that what we need instead is a Leninist revolutionary force to bring about, I guess, an egalitarian utopia on Earth.
I like watching Zizek perform and enjoy his post-Yugoslav sense of humor, and I think his big Lacanian thought is a very good one to have around — on ecological matters no less than on others (though there’s an incoherent desperation in his writing on ecology that makes me glad Tim Morton is around to tell us more clearly what Zizek would like to say). But I can’t help wondering if there’s a kind of continuity — not of ideas, but of sensibility — developing between his (and Alain Badiou’s) ultra-Left neo-Orthodoxy and other orthodoxies, like the Radical Orthodoxy of Milbank and of Philip Blond, spiritual gurus for some of the “red Tories” among David Cameron’s soon-to-be-ruling Conservatives in the UK, and maybe even the Radical Traditionalists that have influenced the European New Right (including the neo-’Pagans’ among them such as Russia’s Aleksandr Dugin and France’s Alain de Benoist). I haven’t read Zizek’s/Milbank’s Monstrosity of Christ (being, quite honestly, a little afraid of it), only reviews of it; but it does seem to me that all of these neo-orthodoxies are fervently anti-liberal, both in liberalism’s economic (neoliberal) and its cultural variants, and are either sour on democracy, or at least merely utilitarian in their approach to it.