Zizek’s Like a Thief in Broad Daylight

“In a hotel in Skopje, Macedonia, where I recently stayed, my companion enquired whether smoking was permitted in our room, and the answer she got from the receptionist was priceless: ‘Of course not, it is prohibited by the law. But you have ashtrays in the room, so this is not a problem.’ The contradiction between prohibition and permission was openly assumed and thereby cancelled, treated as non-existent: the message was, “It’s prohibited, and here is how you do it.’ This incident perhaps provides the best metaphor for our ideological predicament today.

“The same holds for psychoanalytic treatment, where resolution also comes ‘as a thief in broad daylight’, as an unexpected byproduct, never as the achievement of a posited goal. This is why psychoanalytic practice is something that is possible only because of its own impossibility — a statement which many would instantly proclaim a typical piece of postmodernist jargon. However, did Freud himself not point in this direction when he wrote that the ideal conditions for psychoanalytical treatment would be those in which psychoanalysis is no longer needed? This is the reason why Freud listed the practice of psychoanalysis among the impossible professions. After psychoanalytic treatment begins, the patient resists it by (among other ways) deploying transferences, and the treatment progresses through the analysis of transference and other forms of resistance. There can be no direct, ‘smooth’ treatment: in a treatment, we immediately stumble upon obstacles by way of working through these obstacles.

“Revolutions are only possible against the background of their own impossibility: the existing global-capitalist order can immediately counter all attempts to subvert it, and anti-capitalist struggle can only be effective if it deals with these countermeasures, if it turns into its weapon the very instruments of its defeat.

“With Lenin, as with Lacan, the revolution ne s’autorise que d’elle-même: we must assume the revolutionary act as not being covered by the big Other — the fear of taking power ‘prematurely’, the search for the guarantee, is the fear of the abyss of the act. Therein lies the ultimate dimension of what Lenin incessantly denounces as ‘opportunism’, and his wager is that ‘opportunism’ is a position which is inherently false, masking the fear of accomplishing the act with a protective screen of ‘objective’ facts, laws or norms (XXII).



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