[lit-ideas] SoS-a sideways view

  • From: "John McCreery" <john.mccreery@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Sun, 11 Jun 2006 22:48:53 +0900

Following a series of links brought to be an interview with Slavoj
Zizek, who is, in some circles, an academic superstar (see
xhttp://newcloud.com/exchange/interviews/zizek.html). The following
exchange reminded me of some of the issues Charles Taylor is wrestling

Chance: What does it mean to return to big theory?

Zizek: You remember, years ago it was fashionable to say big theory
overlooks its own historical, concrete, anthropological conditions and
presuppositions. That it is naive. Foucault has this attitude in its
utmost when he says, before asking what's the meaning of the universe,
you should ask in what historical context is it even possible to ask
this question. So direct truth questions become questions about the
concrete historical conditions in which one can raise such a question.
I think this was a deadlock.

Today's big theory is no longer a naive big theory. It's not saying
"let's forget about historical context and again ask, does god exist,
or are we free." No, the point is that concrete theory - the idea that
we cannot ask metaphysical questions, only historical questions - had
a skeleton in the closet: it has its own big theory presuppositions.
Usually, even some rather primitive historicist, relativist ideas, for
example, everything depends on historical circumstances or
interactions, there are no universalities, and so on. So for me, it's
about not forgetting from where one speaks. It's about including into
reflection, into historical reflection, the very historicism, which
was unquestioned in this eternal, Foucauldian model. I find it so
boring. It's so boring to say, "no, you shouldn't ask are we free, the
only question is what does it mean in our society to ask the question
are we free."

Of course, I could now just be in my dotage.


John McCreery
The Word Works, Ltd., Yokohama, JAPAN

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