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the kinds of things i think about when i have too much time on my hands…

September 5, 2013

I was reminded indirectly of Zizek’s film The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology today, which I saw a while back, after listening to Prof. Harvey’s lecture on the contradictions of capital, particularly when he talks about how the defetishization of the world around us in an effort to see the underlying reality is a crucial aspect of science, as well as Marx’s endeavor in exploring capitalism.

One of the things I took away from Zizek’s film is that ideology is a complex social phenomenon that, at one level, is relatively overt and routinely manipulated by many, e.g., advertisers, clergy, ruling class intelligentsia, the media, etc. On this level, ideology is more or less an external phenomenon.

At another level, however, ideology functions as a social-biological filter tied into our desires and the psychological nourishment that enjoyment provides, which operates on some kind of unconscious level and, because of this, can take on many forms/be projected through many superstructural lenses. And this, in turn, makes it easily malleable and open to being co-opted by various political movements, marketing campaigns, religions, etc. precisely because its existence and functioning is so obscured by its apparent integrality to our first-person narrative. Hence ideology is more or less an internal phenomenon as well.

Together, these two aspects combined to create a hidden universal framework that influences our perceptions and choices. That’s why in John Carpenter’s film They Live, the film that Zizek starts his analysis with, Nada needs the sunglasses (something outside of himself, perhaps comparable to certain vanguadists’ conception of class consciousness?) to see through this seemingly built-in (biological) and ingrained (social) ideological filter.

The real question, then, is, What’s our real-life equivalent? How can we see through the ‘fetishism of the realm of appearances’ and apprehend the underlying dynamics of the political-economic system we currently live within — to “question the frame” as Zizek might say — in order to realize an alternative one, especially when we often fight so hard to remain blind, as Zizek suggests the 6-minute fight between Nada and his friend Frank illustrates?

And assuming that a complete and ideological-free apprehension isn’t entirely possible, as seems to be the Lacanian standpoint, then an equally important question might be, What can we do to, as one reviewer phrased it, “make ideology’s operations less opaque so as to have a chance at expropriating the narrative textures that shape all of our beliefs and practices”?

In essence, how do we lose or even just loosen the proverbial chains a la Marx and Engels’ Manifest der Kommunistischen Partei that we may very well be complicit in placing upon ourselves?


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