Less Than Nothing by Slavoj Zizek

Slavoj Zizek. Less Than Nothing: Hegel and the Shadow of Dialectical Materialism. London, 2012.


The same holds for the unreliability of the verbal reports given by Holocaust survivors: a witness who was able to offer a clear narrative of his camp experience would thereby disqualify himself. In a Hegelian way, the problem here is part of the solution: the very deficiencies of the traumatized subject’s report on the facts bear witness to the truthfulness of his report, since they signal that the reported content has contaminated the very form in which it is reported.

What we are dealing with here is, of course, the gap between enunciated content and the subjective position of enunciation. G. K. Chesterton wrote apropos of Nietzsche that he “denied egoism simply by preaching it”: “To preach anything is to give it away. First, the egoist calls life a war without mercy, and then he takes the greatest possible trouble to drill his enemies in war. To preach egoism is to practice altruism.” The medium here is not the message, quite the opposite: the very medium that we use – the universal intersubjectivity of language – undermines the message. It is not only that we should, therefore, denounce the particular position of enunciation that sustains the universal enunciated content – the white, wealthy male subject who proclaims the universality of human rights, for example. It is far more important to unearth the universality that sustains, and potentially undermines, his particular claim. The supreme case here, as noted by Bertrand Russell, is that of the solipsist trying to convince others that he alone truly exists.

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