Mapping Ideological Ideas
In his Mapping Ideology book, Slavoj Zizek explains the ideology of dialectical subjects that many thinkers have abandoned. For him, people are too hasty to abandon ideological ideas. The ideological analysis allows the subject to understand the hidden mechanisms of social life. He gave an example of how Stalin and Lenin adopted proletarian ideology in the late 1920s. It aims to show not the distortion of proletarian consciousness under the pressure of the bourgeoisie. Instead, it aims to be the remarkably subjective driving force of the proletarian revolution. In addition, Zizek also writes that romantic ideas have several constructs. First, people can interpret ideology in in-itself construction as a doctrine. It combines concepts, beliefs, and ideas destined to convince people of the truth.
However, it serves specific unrecognized power interests. Criticism of such an idea is symptomatic criticism. It is a critique that aims to distinguish biases that people cannot emphasize in the text. To examine the immanent idea of ideology, one can use one of Habermas’s analyses with the standard of non-coercive rational argumentation such as regulatory ideals. It concluded that communication systematically distorted ideology. Texts under the influence of social interests separate the true public meaning. The second is the ideology from within itself, leading to for-itself. Such ideology is exemplified by Althusser’s idea of ideological state apparatuses. In addition, it shows the existence of ideological material in the practice and rituals of ideological institutions. Such practices include trade, politics, culture, family, education, and religion.
The externalization of romantic ideas becomes the third ideological construction. It acts as something that seems played as a reflection in itself. However, the dissolution, self-limitation, and disintegration of ideas such as ideology happened. People no longer understand ideology as a homogeneous mechanism that guarantees social reproduction. In such a case, Slavoj Zizek gives an example of dialectical subjects that no longer show Marxism’s political, economic ideology. However, presuppositions define economic structures such as exchange in markets. In his book entitled The Sublime Object of Ideology, he mentions the most basic definition of ideology from Das Kapital. Such a concept implies presuppositions, their adequate conditions, the difference between social reality, and a distorted representation of false consciousness about it.
That is why Zizek explores ideology using ideological criticism. The aim is to direct ideological consciousness to a certain point. On the other hand, it is to recognize its adequate conditions, distorted social reality, and dissolving itself through such acts. People can identify ideology through its symptoms because it gives pleasure. Regarding enjoyment, Zizek also argues that ideological formations have several distinct elements. The empty signifier formed the different elements. Ideology is the fantasy that supports it, namely the point of excessive and irrational enjoyment that explains the ideological construction of the subject. People cannot interpret pleasure directly. It transcends the symbolic and can only be marked through inconsistencies in the symbolic order.
Fantasy Ideological Illusion
In describing a fantasy ideology, Slavoj Zizek explains how people place the loss of dialectical subjects over pleasure after they have tasted something. Subjects are included in the symbolic order of language. It is because fantasy inhabits the experience of language. It offers a play on words in capturing the conjunctions of meaning that ideology offers. He also gave an example of when individuals use money. People know that there is no magic about money because its materiality is just a social expression. However, people are trying to get it. This unconscious and ignored illusion is called fantasy ideology.
In his book entitled Organs without Bodies, Zizek mentions that fantasy is neither an objective nor a subjective definition. However, it serves as a category of subjective objectivity. If the illusion is on the side of knowledge, then the cynical position about “people do not know, but still do it” will be post-ideological. Apart from just a position without illusions, people also know what they are doing, and they do it anyway. If an individual is aware of his actions, then the formula can be read as follows: they know that, in their activity, they are following an illusion, but still, they are doing it. It gives an example of how one knows that freedom masks certain forms of exploitation. However, they continued to follow such an idea of freedom.
Back in The Sublime Object of Ideology, Zizek borrows three primary goals. First, he wanted to explain the basic concepts in the psychoanalysis that Lacan formulated. His primary aim is to change the general opinion that Lacan is one of the thinkers of post-structuralism. For Zizek, Lacan’s psychoanalysis was the most extreme version of the Enlightenment. In such a sense, he wants to place Lacan as one of the rationalist thinkers. Second, Zizek wants to understand Lacan’s thinking using Hegel’s philosophical lens. According to himself, the purpose of why he wrote The Sublime Object of Ideology is to re-actualize Hegelian dialectics. He attempted to give a new reading based on Lacan’s psychoanalysis.
So far, people have seen Hegel as an idealist philosopher. He always focused his philosophical reflection on one concept, namely the absolute spirit. In another sense, people also know him as a monistic philosopher, that is, who bases reality on one basic concept. Zizek rejects the view. Hegel’s philosophy gives a vast place for every form of contingency and distinction. Absolute knowledge and the concept of spirit are not fixed concepts. Instead, it is nothing but the name of an acknowledgment of radical loss. That is, the concept of absolute spirit is not essential. Instead, it is just an excess of reality itself. It is just a side concept behind Hegel’s emphasis on contingency and difference.
With the book, Slavoj Zizek as well wants to formulate dialectical subjects about ideology based on Marxist theories. Commodity fetishism and basic concepts in psychoanalysis Lacan want Zizek to change in general terms. However, Lacan’s theory does not talk about ideology at all. Some of the basic concepts in Lacan’s psychoanalysis that he wants to work on are the theory of extreme pleasure and object sublime. Such the purpose of writing the book is interrelated. Hegel’s dialectical philosophy is also necessary for people to revive. It can only be done well if people can understand Hegel using a Lacanian frame of mind. By reading Hegel from Lacan’s point of view, Zizek wants to understand man and his problems without compartmentalizing into other ideologies.
Speaking of Hegel, Hegel’s philosophy greatly influenced Zizek. Regardless, there is no doubt that Zizek’s interpretation was heavily influenced by Christian tradition. No wonder as well Hegel saw himself as a Christian. For Hegel, the ritual of eating bread which transformed the body of Christ signified that the Christian subject could grasp and chew on God. Hegel as well sees dialectics in such rituals. Humans and God merged into a different figure at once, more than both. The dialectical essence of Hegel’s subject unites itself with something in the world. It also makes that something a part of himself. The subject is the subject who swallows, unites himself with the object, and has a dialectic with the world.
In the intervention structure of ideological meaning, Zizek borrows a term called floating signifier. It explains how specific master signifiers can improve an ideological meaning. In developing Lacan’s concept of a graph of desire to explain the positions of floating signifiers and master signifiers, ideological space is, therefore, made up of unbounded elements. An open identity is defined qualitatively as a literal signifier. In his book, Enjoy Your Symptom!, Zizek mentions the logic of Lacanian signification as a horizon of meaning that is always associated with a specific frame. If floating signifiers represent communism as a class struggle, he gave an example; communism will give definite and precise meanings to other elements.
For example, democracy as opposed to bourgeois formal democracy or feminism as opposed to the exploitation of women due to the class conditioned division of labor. Every romantic element is part of equivalences. It finds the points that will be connected and also determines its identity. However, such a bond is only possible on the condition that the entire field can embody such an identity. In their project of democracy, Mouffe and Laclau mention the plurality of identities as having a specific articulation of struggle. No one pretends to be the true meaning, last signified, or the truth, but radical democracy implies the articulation of nodal points. It defines the role of a particular struggle and outlines the horizon of all other struggles.
The essence of the self does not lie within the self but somewhat outside the human self, namely in the symbolic order. It also forms the identity and the reality that continues to come in daily activities. When Zizek is in line with Lacan, recognizing self-identity is impossible. It is because identities are always divided. If people try to recognize the human identity, humans will always feel lacking. With such a pattern, Zizek interpreted and reread the thoughts of German idealist philosophers. The existence of a subject precisely causes imperfections and shortcomings in the symbolic order. After all, subjects, namely humans, can understand the existing symbolic order.
It interprets it according to the subjectivity that humans have. For example, people may change their place of residence, change religions, or change names. The symbolic order never totally affects humans. It continually suffers from ambiguity and eventually changes due to such ambiguity. The subject causes ambiguity and can create a narrative from the symbolic order they have received before. In such a sense, the subject with his identity is the center of narrative gravity. The subject itself is emptiness itself and always feels lacking in itself. However, when talking about entities, identity continues to process and change in the motion of reality.
- Smith, D. W. (2004). Review of Slavoj Žižek, Organs Without Bodies: Deleuze and Consequences. Criticism: A Quarterly for Literature and the Arts, 46(4).
- Žižek, S. (2013). Enjoy your symptom!: Jacques Lacan in Hollywood and out. routledge.
- Žižek, S. (2019). The sublime object of ideology. Verso Books.
- Zizek, S., & Žižek, S. (Eds.). (1994). Mapping ideology. Verso.