Power of Illusion

Interesting piece by Slavoj Žižek in the LRB.  I think he’s right that far too many political observers get caught in cynically realist positions and don’t see what is happening in front of their noses:

The paradigmatic cynic tells you confidentially: ‘But don’t you see that it is all really about money/power/sex, that professions of principle or value are just empty phrases which count for nothing?’ What the cynics don’t see is their own naivety, the naivety of their cynical wisdom which ignores the power of illusions.

The reason Obama’s victory generated such enthusiasm is not only that, against all odds, it really happened: it demonstrated the possibility of such a thing happening. The same goes for all great historical ruptures – think of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Although we all knew about the rotten inefficiency of the Communist regimes, we didn’t really believe that they would disintegrate – like Kissinger, we were all victims of cynical pragmatism. Obama’s victory was clearly predictable for at least two weeks before the election, but it was still experienced as a surprise.

And he goes on to connect the power of illusion and narrative to the way in which the financial meltdown is currently being framed. The piece is freely available here.


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