I’ve invented a great new game called “Žižuku”. The rules are simple: pick on any widely received idea and find the most clever-sounding way to invert it, so as to create a paradox, or at least the semblance of one.
The game is of course inspired by Slavoj Zizek. Reviewing his latest book for Times Higher Education, I realised that this is really almost all that he does, in a number of varying ways:
There is the simple psychoanalytic trope of claiming that however something seems, its true nature is the precise opposite. Then you have the repeated claim that a certain position entails its opposite, but that both sides of the paradox are equally real. Then again, there is the reversal of common sense, in which whatever the received wisdom is, Žižek postulates the opposite. And that really is it: Žižek simply repeats these intellectual manoeuvres again and again, albeit brilliantly, supplementing them with Lacanian embellishments such as the objet petit a, the Other, and the Real.
The point is that you can play this game well and generate some real insights from it. The drawback is that you can just as well come up with something profound-sounding but empty. In a forthcoming New Humanist, I came up with another:
Is it not the case that the very people who protest the most about how new Labour has lost touch with its working class roots are the very people the party has really lost touch with: the liberal middle classes? They complain precisely because Labour’s thinking is now closer to those poorer, white working class voters the intelligentsia claims to speak for.
So, the invitation here is to play the game for yourself, debate its merits (and rules), or share some examples of particularly good or bad examples of it from the writings of others. Let’s play Žižuku!