that he is a savior of the world, Michael is almost spending much of his working hours following the project of Solar clean energy, until the legal system takes from him everything he believes to own. The move can be interpreted as if the issue, from the beginning, has not been Michael’s. The political system has invented the concern for climate change and has created the ideological ‘Specter ’ of the cause. Michael just became concerned about the issue by means of Aldous. So, here is the time that the legal system and the RSA enter the scene and direct the ideological inventions and to lead it the way the power system desires.
On the other hand, the issue of intellectual labor is also a dominant theme for Žižek. He believes that the capitalist system today has reshaped its old Marxist standard of labor exploitation. He believes the concept of exploitation needs to be re-thought. In Living in the End Times, Žižek writes:
The problem is that the rise of “intellectual” labor (scientific knowledge as well as practical savoir-faire) to a hegemonic position (the “general intellect”) undermines the standard notion of exploitation, since it is no longer labor-time which serves as the source and ultimate measure of value. But what this means is that the concept of exploitation needs to be radically re-thought. (241)
So, in this post post-modern era, the concept of the scientist working for the good of all people must be revised. Ideological manipulations can work greatly to exploit the intellectual labor as well as to steal the intellectual property, which is another dominant theme for Žižek and to McEwan in Solar. If one takes an honest look, though not owning the idea, Michael has worked for Solar energy project a lot. He has dedicated some time of his life to the cause, but in the end, he is convicted of the theft of intellectual property charges. This way, the political system is trying to devour the intellectual property.
From a Žižekian perspective, lack prepares the ground for the complex web of doctrine to externalize itself as proper belief. Belief is the most elusive domain of ideology. It is the “spontaneous ideology at work” (Žižek, Cultural Theory: An Anthology 233) at the heart of the social reality. Therefore, this is the realm of ideological mystifications. Belief has a complex structure for Žižek. He assumes that even if a person does not believe that he believes something, he exactly believes. He maintains that in today’s world, people believe much more than at any other time. Considering the two contemporary novels, there are traces of such complex structure in the stories.
Talking about Briony’s belief structure has a very complicated task due to the fact that there are two Brionys in the Atonement. The initial teen-aged girl is not aware of her actions and the beliefs behind them. One can place her acts and beliefs mostly at the level of ‘ritual’. This while the seventy-seven-year-old Briony, who seems to be a famous author, is aware of many of her beliefs owing to the fact that she is considered the writer of the story and the narrator of the initial teenager account.
Consequently, the reader of the novel is confronted with the final draft of the story which has been written again and again within fifty-nine years and is now criticized about the belief structure of the characters, while the protagonist of the story is also its author. Therefore, Briony’s beliefs and any change at them in the course of time seem impossible to discern. This is the significant and exclusive way by which the text resists any interpretation for being taken for granted regarding divisions between the initial beliefs and the late ones. For this reason, one might only have to consider Atonement a novel written by Ian McEwan and try to detect the traces of some beliefs in it.
Little Briony is not aware of most of her beliefs. But, in the Žižekian terms, she only ‘does not know what she knows.’ (Žižek, “Authors@Google”) She believes in her ‘known unknowns’ (Žižek, “Authors@Google”) and acts according to what she knows and does not know that she knows. Her actions are the proofs of her beliefs. She is also a step forward in that not only she believes in the social and family constraints, but also tries to propagate their doctrines. Briony’s tidiness at home, her didactic play, her guide for saving her sister and brother from the marriage out of the wedlock and her efforts to guide them in the right path of marriage all and all are associated with her belief structure. Her efforts to regulate her cousins can also be related to the same issue.
Briony’s tale regarding the “love which did not build a foundation on good sense” (McEwan, Atonement 3) is a sign of her beliefs. Her writings “intended to inspire not laughter, but terror, relief and instruction” (ibid 8) also represent her strict belief in the social convictions. She does not even think about divorce as “a proper subject” (McEwan, Atonement 8) and believes it belongs to “the realm of disorder” (ibid 9). For her, wedding was a sort of a “formal neatness of the virtue rewarded” (ibid 9). The same belief makes Briony a “shrine to her (older sister’s) controlling demon” (ibid 5). The very scheme of belief that demonizes a lover out of the marriage bed creates a demon out of Robbie Turner and ruins the life of her sister and her lover.
The society, the family, the regulatory system and the parents can be considered as the sources for her beliefs. Žižek in his book On Belief writes: “one can believe (have faith in) X without believing in X,” and that “it is never me who, in the first person singular, is ready to assume belief, there is always the need for the fiction of a ‘subject supposed to belief’” (110). Briony in the first person singular might not be considered as a source of belief but she has her subjects supposed to believe. Her society and her mother, Emily, can be considered as playing the roles of the very hierarchical subjects due to the fact that they act in the same way in supporting Briony’s actions.
The old Briony is portrayed as being aware of her beliefs. She says: “Perhaps, I was nothing more than a victim of modern diagnostics” (McEwan, Atonement 355). The sentence sums up the whole story of her life. Once in her life, she was not aware of her actions and beliefs. Her beliefs led her perform some wrong actions. When she stepped in the modern world of adulthood, she was exposed to diagnose her old beliefs and the proceeding wrongdoings and that became the source of her suffering. The older Briony seems to be feeling like a soldier, who has fought for his/her belief and in the course of time has been exposed to the harsh realities behind his ideological sensations. As a result, she/he has understood that has been deceived by the institutional powers. She surveys the dead loved ones, follows all that passed during the passage of the time, she recalls the incidents, and feels by heart the deception of her beliefs.
The problem in the older ages of Briony is that now she might not believe in her social constraints, but because of some limitation, she has to pretend to believe in them. The fact that she does not fight to publish her true story and is willing to have her manipulated version of her story published, reveals the fact that she still cannot free herself from those beliefs in action. As Žižek maintains; what you pretend to do is what you do and what you are. It is not important what you believe but what you act as if you believe is what you believe (Žižek, Enjoy Your Symptom X). Consequently, the belief structure is functioning absolutely great even in the older ages of Briony. In his Enjoy Your Symptom, Žižek notes:
The path to an authentic subjective position runs…”from the outside inward”: first, we pretend to be something, we just act as if we are that, till, step by step, we actually become it-it is not difficult to recognize in this paradox the Pascalian logic of “custom” (“act as if you believe and belief will come by itself”). (34).
Briony’s structural belief is reigning until the late years of the author. In Atonement, author Briony says that “I have regarded it as my duty to disguise nothing” (McEwan 369) but ironically she does not publish the true account of her life for the reason that “my forensic memoir can never be published while my fellow criminals were alive” (McEwan 370). The irony is clear in a full Žižekian sense. When Briony does not publish the true account of the events, then the dark truths behind the old beliefs could not be revealed and consequently she acts as if she believes that her beliefs have been authentic. She expresses that “there was a crime” (McEwan, Atonement 370) but her actions do not reveal the crime. She is living at a time of ‘utilitarian manipulations’ (Žižek, Enjoy Your Symptom 47) and the very manipulations help the belief structure works greatly by the help of pretence.
Solar’s Michael is also entangled in the same trap. He believes himself a not real believer in the apocalyptic beliefs, but later on, his pretence makes him believe gravely in the issue. Initially, he was ‘unimpressed’ by some commentary suggesting that “humankind was drifting towards calamity” (McEwan, Solar 15). Michael finds the belief expression calling for ‘world in peril’ a “moronic” expression that pleasures the politicians (ibid 36). But, he does exactly the opposite. He keeps pursuing the cause as if that is his mission to save the planet by his theories. His pretence that he believes in the idea of ‘the end of the world’ is what Michael believes because as Žižek in his Enjoy Your Symptom puts it:
The utilitarian manipulator transposes onto the other his own (unconscious) belief like the parents who say “of course do [we] not believe in Santa Claus, we just pretend to believe in order not to