Philosophy Hammer
Philosophy, Economics, Politics & Psychology Tested with a Hammer

52: Slavoj Žižek part II:
Fantasy as a Political Category

Summary by: Jeff McLaren

         In his essay “Fantasy as a Political Category: A Lacanian Approach,” Žižek starts by claiming a given that many authors have shown that ideology is everywhere: in toilet design, hairstyles, architecture, song and dance routines and even dish washing techniques: in all things that one normally considered outside ideological influence (Q1). His main point goes beyond this by claiming that “...this materialization of ideology in the external materiality renders visible inherent antagonisms that the explicit formulation of ideology cannot afford to acknowledge.” Fantasy is the indicator of these antagonisms Žižek continues: “fantasy conceals [the] horror [of the Real], yet at the same time it creates what it purports to conceal, its 'repressed' point of reference.”
         There are four aspects of fantasy that can elucidate his concept. 1) consider how the subject is in the fantasy: in every fantasy the subject perceives him/herself in a likeable way, that is from the point of view of an ego-ideal but even more importantly “...fantasy creates a multitude of 'subject-positions among which the (observing, fantasizing) subject is free to float...”(Q2)
         2) There is “the impossible gaze of the Other” in fantasy: the camera in a movie; the narrator in a story; the narrative in an image. These gazes convey a meaning that is not accidental (Q3).
         3) Popular fantasies are never transgressions of the Law; rather they are supports of the Law (Q4).
         4) Fantasies are never of the subject's everyday life – they need to keep the subject's life separate from the content of the fantasy. If one lives or acts out the fantasy, it has become a little objective and a lot less subjective (Q5). Žižek's conclusion is that fantasy makes us who we are and society what it is by preventing the Real from becoming obvious (an interest we all share) thereby comforting us (Q6)(Q7).
         Q1 Do you believe that everything can have an ideological purpose or use?
         Q2 Do we always see ourselves in a sympathetic light – and especially in fantasy? Can you imagine being anyone or anything? In a good story we should identify with the protagonist even if he/she does bad things. This is part of the “suspension of disbelief” necessary to enjoy fantasy. What do you see as the political and psychological significance of always being the “good guy” in your fantasy and the ability to be whom ever you wish?
         Q3 Do you see any significance to the camera angle, or the narrator or the narrative in determining some meaning. When fantasizing, how often do you ask: 'for which gaze is it stages?' and 'which narrative it supposed to support?' Is there any benefit to asking these questions?
         Q4 Žižek's notion of the Law is any de facto rule or law that is actually in effect: the fantasy servers to re-enforce the Law. What are the most popular forms of fantasy in the modern world? What do typical plot lines say about how we should act? Do we act in these ways?
         Q5 Žižek claims that our sanity depends on being able to distinguish between our real (little r) and our imaginary world. When we have to or when we try to mix them we become a little insane – to much and we become certifiably crazy. Does this explain why some people are violently defensive when their self-image is challenged? Does this explain why a scandalous flaw in a leader actually leads to deeper bond among his followers toward the leader?
         Q6 Do you believe that successful ideology is a golden mean between too much identification and not enough? Could part of Kim Jongil's success as a despot be that he is such a despot and his hard core followers find a certain camaraderie in trying to hide that fact from the general people?
         Q7 What would it be like if we identified too much with an ideology? Consider what it would be like to be a real adherent of a religion (that is taking everything to its literal conclusion) as apposed to people who consider themselves members but independent and free to not accept every piece of dogma.

© 2008 - 2018, James Jeff McLaren