Let’s play Žižuku!

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!

Leave a comment ?


  1. That is a real good Žižuku. Incisive at first glance, at second glance shallow, then at third glance even more incisive. Brill.

    Though Žižuku is the technic some small children deploy against adults, just so much more stylishly opaque.

  2. I write this as an expression of my need to be silent,
    to show my dedication to exclusively non-verbal forms of communication, to manifest my utter rejection of participation in all blogs, as one more conclusive proof of my non-existence and of the nothingness of all epiphenomena non-created by the bourgeois mode of production in its reified ultra-erotic unconscious hyper-consciousness.

  3. The primary image we have of ourselves is mediated through the media by which we actualize self-reference and self-observation. But by being so mediated, that image is inverted, and any inversion of the subject problematizes its claim to subjectivity (it self-evidently cannot be that “I” am both the object statement and its inversion). The concept “I” (and indeed any centered, reflexive deixis) is an ineluctable conundrum; you might say that it’s a “rigid non-designator,” accessible to no possible world at all. As such, “this” cannot be true or false…

  4. michael reidy

    Says Epictetus: Never say of anything, ” I have lost it,” but ” I have restored it”. I like to think that another meaning to be taken from this is that it has been restored to me or the energy that was bound up in it has come back. There was an attempt to elbow the Jew out of history but history has been restored to him, he owns history again and others roar rhubarb in the wings. Now this intussusception of history is evinced by the offer to the Gazans of a Shoah of their own by the mayor of a town that was visited by the Kassam pestilance. Ghetto walls, collective punishment and now finally, finally, finally, the replication that tolls like the midnight bell announcing the avaatar of the shadow.

    One might say that Kissinger and Meir were the Siva/Shakti of Geo politics.

  5. Eric MacDonald

    Paul plays a classic (and rather disturbing) game of Zizuku in First Corinthians:

    “Were you a slave when called? Do not be concerned about it. Even if you can gain your freedom, make use of your present condition now more than ever. For whoever was called in the Lord as a slave is a freed person belonging to the Lord, just as whoever was free when called is a slave of Christ.” -1 Corinthians 7:21-22

  6. This game Žižuku – is it a satire of Zizek, or a homage to him? Or both?

  7. Alan Bennet’s already on this one – have you yet seen “The History Boys”?

  8. This reminds me of Kant’s antinomies. Originally, these were meant as an attack on metaphysics, but postmodern thought has misappropriated the strategy to attack empiricism altogether. I have no patience for philosophies that glory in absurdity and demean the sciences. If we once took it that we were the center of the universe, too many today have decided that we are insignificant altogether. If Humanity is limited, it is only by our unlimited masochistic desire to torture ourselves and one another with the power of our own insecurities. I think that Mr McDonald’s statement is very telling of this impulse.

  9. Infinite regress, or “turtles all the way down” seems an inherently ridiculous idea, and as such we logically posit that everything must have a beginning. However, we are struck with the problem that finite regress is infinitely regressive when we look at the concept of existence – how does anything exist? How can there be a first cause, if nothing caused it? The only reasonable solution is that something came from nothing, which, as we know, is impossible. This is as if to say that logic is illogical, which of course cannot be logical.

  10. Some guy from Holland

    1. Žižuku: one thing is always already its opposite.
    2. The opposite of Žižuku, or non-Zizuku: one thing is not its opposite.

    1 and 2 are each others opposites. So according to the common sensical 2, 1 and 2 remain each others opposite. But according to 1, 1 and 2 are the same. But if 1 states that one position is already its opposite, than it also states that two things that are the same are also opposites, because that is the opposite of being the same. So if 1, then also 2. Or:

    3. Žižuku Žižuku: two things that are the same are each others opposites.

    So 1=2, and 1=3, and 2=3.

    I’m sure this is wrong, but something that is logically wrong is right, acording to Žižuku.

  11. Some guy from Holland

    I forgot my point. You can reduce Zizek’s way of reasoning to the absurd, but that doesn’t make his work absurd. Playing postmodern games is a strategy to render nonsensical opinions that are not in the mainstream, like Creationists who, while clinging to the bible, say that Darwisnism is ‘only a theory’.

    It is used by those who occupy by the dominant ideological coordinates. Zizek offers clarity. He is always relevant.

  12. Hah I’m honestly the first comment to this great post?

  13. Methinks the point of Zizek is missed in teh postmodern approach taken to the subject. Hegel developed this method a long time ago. Zizek is far more relevant than much of the pm that comes out, so why relativise zizek….

  14. Las Palabras y las Cosas » Archivo » Žižuku - pingback on September 17, 2010 at 12:41 pm
  15. Where to play this game ? Got any link? Or did i misunderstood something?

  16. vsg för mkt litet paper | tiramisunami came washing over me - pingback on March 5, 2012 at 1:50 pm
  17. Symetryzm revisited « czescjacek - pingback on December 3, 2012 at 11:53 am
  18. Let’s play Žižuku! | Nyanagharo - pingback on April 29, 2013 at 7:32 pm
  19. I cannot read these comments.

    Your brains are trained to deal with complete nonsense fluidly.

    That is not a valuable skill.

    Paradoxically, I am smarter than people who can read these comments, because I have clear thought.

    People who seem smart are often not.


  20. Howdy! Do you know if they make any plugins to assist with SEO?

    I’m trying to get my blog to rank for some targeted keywords
    but I’m not seeing very good success. If you know of any please share.

  21. Tackleberry claims Sontag’s tautology is always identical.(1) Yet identity is self-referential only to the degree that it is self-conscious. Therefore, whither Wittgenstein, tautology is always but not everywhere self-referential, says Bellini.(2) In this way, we regard all proto-DeLeuzian phenomena as Guattarian, but the converse conditionally, averring Baudrillard, agrees Charles.(3)

    1. T.I. Tackleberry, “Neoerotic Discourses on Language” Journ. Am. Psy. Ana. Philol., Jan. 2000
    2. Ralph M. Bellini, “Creative Endocrinology in Marine Etiologic Pathology,” Refereed Medical References, Amherst, Annals of Med. Journ. 2003
    3. C.M.E. Charles, “Beginning Genesis,” speech, groundbreaking cer., Gymnasium Derrida Dekonstruktivitatstheorie, Stuttgart, April, 1999

  22. We’ve done an episode of our podcast playing your game, and it was fun! Thanks for sharing your idea.


  23. We are precisely what we are not because ‘being’ is not a being itself, it is rather the negation of that which sustains it, and in this, being negated so as to be sustained as that which negates, and (thus) is.

  24. DS106 on the couch - pingback on January 29, 2017 at 1:03 pm
  25. I’m not going to bother commenting on this thread because it would be a waste of time. But since I’ve already begun to comment, I’ve already wasted the time it took for me to write what I’ve already written and ultimately will. Why not continue to write, then? Because as I’ve already said, I’d be wasting my time saying absolutely nothing.

    On the other hand, since I do take the position that ‘time’ is but a human category and projection beyond which it cannot have any reality, despite what Einstein and the relativists who have followed in his train may have grotesquely theorized, to waste time is, ontologically speaking, a waste of nothing at all, a squandering of at least one iota of the impossible.

    Oh, I know what you are thinking: if ‘time’ doesn’t actually exist as a substantive dimension, as a kind of self-subsistent ‘thing’ or ‘substance’ quite independent of any perceiving and hence projective mind, then how does anything in the cosmically eternal present ever happen? (Excuse me while I adjust my T-shirt and wipe a bit of sweat of the end of my nose, a gesture that has and will continue to be ongoing in the course of my opening move, which because it will also be my only move, will also be what for want of any inspiration my closing gambit.) . . .

    . . . why it’s all in the ‘thingness’ of things, my dear Žižekian(s), of what for convenience we refer to as physically subsistent reality, which most certainly is ‘structured’ and therefore ‘must’ in its eternal movement move in a series of ‘occurrences,’ that once having ‘occurred,’ cannot be undone and that also ‘occur’ in relation to one another, creating the illusion of ‘rates of occurence,’ of which the ratios are most definite and quantifiable, but which are only a manifestation of the constraints of necessary precedence and subsequence, and this would explain why clocks, even of an atomic kind, vary in their relative ‘tickings’ depending upon either, on the one hand, their location in a determinate gravitational potential which while unique at every point in space in the universe yet exists at that very point in space in relative gravitational tension with every other point in the rest of the entire universe or, on the other hand, their absolute, and not relative, motion in the midst of everything else that is ‘physically thing-like’ in the universe — or a combination thereof, and maybe even also depending on a few other things as well.

    Get rid of time as a dimension, in other words, and there is no weirdness to the physical universe, which always just ‘is’ at ‘this’ moment in ‘reality’ if and albeit always in a ‘structured’ and therefore ‘intelligible,’ irrevocable and irreversible order of motion.

    And I notice somewhat belatedly that I’m somewhat late to this game, what with entries dating as far back as March 03, 2008.

    Luckily for me, if we were to take the actual non-existence of time seriously – as I most certainly do, which is not to deny the fact of my coming and eventual non-existence, that state of non-being that we call ‘death’ — we have always and only been here, in this moment, in this thread, reading and commenting as we have and will have, in but this eternal cosmic moment of the now. No one ever was or could ever be too late, cosmically speaking, to this game — or any other, for that matter – of Žižuku .

    I therefore retract, before even making it, my apology for my tardiness.

    But as I feel I must apologize for something or other, let me offer my most sincere and grovelling apologies for not being as well educated as the rest of you. I’m trying, not very successfully, I know, to comment somewhere above my station.

    And yet, and yet, as my luck would further have it, for my late arrival, the game did end a while ago, and now the auditorium sits empty, and the stage is vacant, and though I do dare to play and fervently so, sadly and as usual, it appears to be . . . well . . . with myself and all alone . . .

    All too self-consciously yours,


Leave a Comment

NOTE - You can use these HTML tags and attributes:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>