believes the notion of ideology not to be an imposed phenomenon from the outside. He questions the traditional notion of Marxist criticism and asks: if the notion of ideology is imposed on people by the ruling system or any institution, then how is it that people nowadays, being aware of the function of many of the ideological systems, are still doing the same? Žižek invites people to take a brief look at the Western media outlets being full of ‘too much criticism’ of the ruling systems with no change in any political institutions followed. He asks: how is it that with this too-much-ness of the critique of ideology, still people believe what they believed, and do the same as before? He then dismisses the Marxist notion of ‘they know not what they do,’ and replaces it by the developed version of “they know very well what they are doing, yet they are doing it” (Žižek, Cultural Theory: An Anthology 232).
When the discussion arrives at this deadlock of inconsistency between knowledge and action, Žižek summons his Lacanian muse. This is the time for him to delve deeper into the concept of ideology and its relationship to the unconscious. In his article dating back to 1989, he comments:
Ideology is the exact opposite of internalization of the external contingency: it resides in externalization of the result of an inner necessity, and the task of the critique of ideology here is precisely to discern the hidden necessity in what appears as mere contingency. (Žižek, Cultural Theory: An Anthology 230)
This can be roughly called Žižek’s declaration of the new ideology. Instead of following the old perceptions believing the ideology to be an externally imposed idea internalized through different forms like repetition or adding ideological moral, ethnic, political etc values to the real, the Žižekian ideology is considered as an inner necessity rooting in the unconscious. In fact, in Žižekian terms, that is the unconscious inner necessity that summons the ideological manipulations and forces the conscious mind to act accordingly. For him the appearance of any ideology is the result of the inner necessity.
After this declaration, Žižek successfully applies a fresh Lacanian notion to the Marxist political philosophy and this new trend answers many questions about the political philosophical deadlocks. This notion best provides an answer to the old question: is there an escape from ideology? It also provides proofs for the famous cultural materialist assertion that “the stepping out of ideology is the very form of enslavement to it” (Cultural Theory: An Anthology 231). When the inner necessity is the seed that brings about the birth of an ideology, then an escape from it would require another ideological notion to cling on; this means a further enslavement to ideology.
Žižek, here, defends the critique of ideology in order not to arrive at an opposite direction out of ideology, or what he calls anti-ideology, but to create an empty point where there is no ideology at work properly. He believes “it is possible to assume a place that enables us to maintain a distance from it [ideology]” (ibid 238) and stresses that this place must remain empty. He emphasizes that the moment this empty space is occupied by a ‘positively determined reality,’ we will be back in ideology par excellence (ibid 238).
In order to elaborate more on this, Žižek uses the Lacanian term that ‘truth has the structure of a fiction’, and comments that the fiction-like truth always bears a ‘Specter’ hovering around it. He borrows the term ‘Specter’ from Jacques Derrida’s Specter de Marx wherein Derrida maintains that there is no reality without the fiction-like ‘Specter’ that hovers around it. This Specter is quite close to what Lacan calls ‘a’ or the surplus value (ibid 238).
Here, Žižek again tries to correct the older perception that regards ideology as a dark obvious manipulation of the objects. He generalizes the idea of ideology to every concept. When the reality is always spectral and bears a shadow of fiction, then the vice versa must work too and every fiction should have a pinch of reality inside, and this is why Žižek uses anecdotes, fictional stories, movies etc. in order to reveal hidden layers of ideology. For him, one can claim that, there is more truth in fiction than in reality when it comes to discovering the ‘inner necessity’ for different forms of ideology.
In his masterpiece The Sublime Object of Ideology (1989), Žižek uses the Lacanian notion of ‘sublimation’; the ‘process’ though which the ‘sublime object’ is born. The ‘sublime object’ is “a positive, material object elevated to the status if the impossible Thing” (70). For Žižek, sublimation is an inner necessity which helps the public desire for the Impossible. Žižek’s empirical example for this process is democracy, which has been sublimated to the level that is absolutely out of reach, and this is not, he argues, something handled by the institutions, but something formed through people’s unconscious mind following their inner necessity to form an all-good fictional positive political real (ibid 161). Žižek criticizes the same sublimation of ‘democracy’ believing that it has been so sublimated that even a simple criticism of this ‘sublime system’ would seem intolerable (Žižek, “Columbia University: Too Much Democracy?”).
Žižek argues that far from offering a point of flight, ideology offers the people “the social reality itself as an escape from the traumatic real kernel.” (The Sublime Object of Ideology 45) Considering the case of democracy, there is an inner necessity for a ‘sublime’ political system that causes the sublimation of the system, and then the very sublimation offers a point of escape from the shortcomings and shortages of the system itself. For Žižek, the ideological fantasy is not to be escaped from, but is there to add a fictional Specter, an object petit a or an object cause of desire in order to make it desirable for the people.
V. Žižek Meets McEwan: Contributions to the Apocalyptic Vision
“They don’t realize that we’re bringing them the plague.” This is the remark made by Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) to Carl G. Jung (1875-1961) following their visit in New York. Glyn Daly believes, in today’s world, the point can as well be exactly applied to the Slovenian philosopher (Žižek and Daly, Conversations with Žižek 1). Dr Daly is true. Žižek is the thinker who has cast the plague of doubt at every comfortably presupposed social reality. His doubt begins with the Cartesian insight of I doubt, therefore I think, therefore I am. However his doubt is replaced by the Lacanian version of ‘I doubt, therefore I am’ (Žižek, Tarrying with the Negative 69).
Doubt is the key to Žižekian philosophy. Every socio-cultural subject is doubted by Žižek to be analyzed in order for its ideological layers to be excavated. And, one of the most important ideologies to doubt about, in Žižekian view, is the emergent apocalyptic vision today. Here, he invites people to doubt and think more about the reasons behind the latest wave of apocalyptic thinking haunting their minds and the cultural space.
In his interview with Aljazeera’s Riz Khan, Žižek once said:
I am not a cheap apocalyptic guy saying 2012 or whenever there will be a catastrophe…let’s just be aware that we are dealing with a series of very serious problems, which if we just leave the existing society to develop following its inherent tendencies, will eventually lead to some kind of zero level catastrophic point. (Žižek, “Are We Living in the End Times?”)
This is only an aperture for Žižek to philosophically investigate the issue, and map the existing apocalyptism. There are points to ponder in this very simple cry. He invites the public to be aware, ideologically aware, of the current conditions, and of the consequences of the current crises, and that of the inherent tendencies behind them. He calls the post 9/11 problems ‘very serious’, which present grave inherent tendencies.
Believing in this, and the fact that an ideological Specter is hovering over today’s catastrophes, Žižek delves deep into the human psyche with the help of Lacan, he maps the belief structure. He reads and over-reads Hegel, comments on the new types of the fundamentalists’ violence, and quotes new scientific investigations in order only to get closer to the very inherent tendencies (the inner necessities) behind today’s global crises.
To the researcher’s mind, this worldview seems so close to what McEwan does. McEwan’s older texts bear pinches of apocalyptic vision. In The Cement Garden (1978) a real apocalypse happens for the family when the father, and then the mother die. The kids experience a purgatory-like house, following their bearing of their own mother’s corpse in a trunk filled with cement in the basement, and by the crumbling of the corpse which coincides with the decay of the household charisma. The Comfort of Strangers (1981) can be called the apocalypse of strangers, with Maria (in a leisure trip with her lover Colin to an unnamed city) being paralyzed with a drug in her tea, witnessing the slaying of her passionate lover, with whom she has spent seven deep years. The slaying happens by some sadistic inhabitants. In The Child in Time (1987), the apocalypse of Stephen Lewis begins in his ordinary visit to a supermarket, where he loses his only daughter Kate, and never finds her again. The whole novel apart from its ending, it can be claimed, is the account of the spell of misery the incident casts upon Stephen’s life. In The Innocent (1990), Leonard Marnham’s nightmarish engagement night (while being a virgin) exposes the tale of a hounding apocalypse, with Leonard and Maria in their first hours of their engagement killing Maria’s ex-husband Otto, chopping his body-parts and scattering them in cases around the city in the days