Slavoj Žižek and the Politics of Abstract Negativity

Date: 2024-05-08T22:55:54+00:00

Location: cosmonautmag.com

Yanis Iqbal breaks down Slavoj Žižek’s philosophical narrative of abstract negativity, revealing it to be politically disabling and epistemologically reductive.

Almandrade, The value and the void (1985)

In an interview with Piers Morgan, Slavoj Žižek asks the West to give nuclear weapons to Ukraine in its fight against the Russians, who are “no less than Arabs” when it comes to religious fundamentalism. Earlier, he had called for a “stronger NATO” in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, so that “European unity” could be preserved. Žižek’s recent political interventions regarding Palestine are similarly shameful. He has denounced the “barbarism” of Hamas by writing that the choice is not between Palestinian anti-colonial violence and Zionist settler-colonial violence, but “between fundamentalists and all those who still believe in the possibility of peaceful coexistence.” Countering those leftists who see the explosion of militant struggle as “a moment of truth, when liberal-pacifist illusions about the occupation are upended,” he sees “in it a catastrophe, not only for Jews and Palestinians but for the world.”

Like a true liberal, he says that “it is all too easy to dismiss the state of Israel as a result of the colonization of the Palestinian territory … both Palestinians and Jews have a right to live there, and … are condemned to live there together.” He advises all those who are enthusiastic about liberation to think about what will happen if Hamas wins the fight: “what if the reality is that after the revolution there is nothing to eat?” The implication of this is that both Palestine and Israel should come together to appreciate the long-term “democratic” perspective that has been outlined by Žižek. This “democratic” perspective, in fact, is one that is rooted in European values. Žižek says that “Europe has to find its own voice” with regard to the Palestine issue, instead of joining the “global outcry.” “It can do it, because it was able to do it for decades, always ready to see the complexity of the situation and to listen to all sides. It would be a shame to leave this role to Putin and China.” In the end, we end up with a patronizing, Eurocentric liberal who hitches the fate of Palestine to the exceptional moral conscience of imperialist states. How to make sense of Žižek’s awful political position? Isn’t he considered the “most dangerous philosopher in the West?” I believe that the ideological blindness of Žižek can be traced to an invariant philosophical system of abstract negativity that imposes prescriptions upon political processes instead of learning from them.

Individualist Revolt

In order to explain the nature of the revolutionary act, Žižek takes recourse to the film Fight Club. The film’s narrator, Edward Norton, beats himself in front of his boss in response to the latter’s tacit hostility. This masochistic violence turns the narrator into an empty, wounded entity with no hopes of reintegration into the social bond: I no longer fit into the stable identity that had been prepared for me by the ruling class. Instead, I become an unrecognizable entity who has beaten out all its engagements with the symbolic order. The self-beating of the subject enacts a “scatological (excremental) identification, which equals adopting the position of the proletarian who has nothing to lose. The pure subject emerges only through this experience of radical self-degradation, when I let/provoke the other to beat the crap out of me, emptying me of all substantial content, of all symbolic support that could confer on me a minimum of dignity.”1 What Žižek ignores is that the act of self-emptying is itself a search for authenticity. The film’s terroristic rebellion against corporations is framed as a counter-attack against the emasculation brought about by consumerist culture: “We are a generation of men raised by women,” Brad Pitt’s character Tyler Durden asserts. What is being targeted is not so much capitalism as a social structure, but feminization as an ideological contaminant2— that’s why the narrator sets up “Fight Clubs” where people can beat each other up and thus feel real pain. Even though Žižek admits that this strategy of masochistic violence “is risky and ambiguous (it can easily regress into a proto-fascist macho logic of violent male bonding),” he asks us to assume “this risk…[as] there is no other direct way out of the closure of the capitalist subjectivity.”3

The elimination of any viable political alternative to masochist disidentification is based on the assumption that there is a nucleus of radical negativity that needs to be recovered in order to challenge the status quo. This assumption is made possible through the philosophical equivalence of masochistic violence with the death-drive, which signifies not a craving for death but the way in which life is defined by the constitutive impossibility of a harmonious closure. Life constantly fails to live up the ideals of success. When this failure, this gap between me and the symbolic order, is courageously assumed, I undergo “subjective destitution,”4 the process whereby the desire for wholeness is replaced by the knowledge “that no matter how well-planned and -meant an idea or a project is, it will somehow turn out wrong… [Thus,] we resign ourselves to the permanent threat of destruction, which is a positive condition of our freedom.”5 In other words, the impossibility/lack that defines human capacity is taken as the sole ground for politics. “[W]e cannot get rid of a constitutive impossibility, but we can re-inscribe it in a different way.”6 Žižek illustrates this through the example of “democracy:” “no one can legitimately make a direct claim to power, the place of power is in principle empty, it can only be temporarily occupied by democratically elected persons.”7 The “Real” of negativity that Žižek considers as a general philosophical principle of politics is appropriate only for the individual level, where the overturning of hegemonic ideology leads to something that is less than an individual. The separation of the subject from social links is a negative act since it deprives the subject of the security offered by identity. This is exemplified by the masochistic violence of Fight Club. However, when the collective context of individual disidentification is overlooked, we end up with the abstract celebration of negativity that makes it susceptible to hegemonic absorption. The supposedly radical negativity of the violence practiced by “Fight Clubs” morphs into the essentialist search for authenticity, which can take conservative-masculinist forms.

There is no guarantee that subjective destitution will light up a revolution. Comfortable in the philosophical presumption that the end destination of all endeavors is an all-encompassing impossibility, we ignore the obstacle posed by the material structures of society. That’s why the negative gesture that unleashes inconsistency and impossibility is true only for the individual subject. At the level of collective politics, revolutionary movement cuts the proletariat from its class designations, but this hardly means that we end up with the sheer negativity of chaos. Mohammad Reza Naderi notes that “to decouple the masses from their class status is not to fall on nothingness, as in the case of the decoupling of the “imaginarized” subject from its symbolic status (which leaves us in nothingness). It leaves us with an enduring material instance.”8 When an inconsistency is revealed in this material instance, we don’t plunge into anarchy. Instead, “what we get is…a situation in which what functioned as the inconsistent exception to “a” consistency is now available for a new (constrained, but real) consistency. The abolition of the State does not lead us to total chaos; it leads us to relative chaos, in which a new orientation is hard but still possible.”9 Here, the philosophical schema of a general inconsistency is replaced by a concrete schema in which inconsistency always exists relative to particular situations. We are dealing not with the explosion of an all-encompassing negativity but with a specific conjuncture that confronts its own impasse. At the collective level, the negativity of subjective destitution is subordinated to the materiality of class struggle, whose course is not bound by the constitutive impossibility delineated by Žižek’s philosophical narrative. Žižek constructs a new subject of radical negativity whose nothingness is the essence to which all political sequences inevitably return. Class struggle, on the other hand, is a non-subject wherein “negative” and “positive” only have relative meaning. As an apparatus, mechanism, and process, class struggle is the laboratory in which different instances of the social totality come together to experimentally produce something new. The workers’ movement is dictated not by the persistence of abstract negativity but by the concrete modalities in which different conjunctures negotiate their contradictions. Panagiotis Sotiris elaborates:10

[I]t is the very process of creating forms of political agency and intervention that conditions political subjectivity, in a non-linear manner that includes constant confrontation with the terrain of the struggle, the continuous production of new knowledge, and recurring processes of self-criticism and correction. It is a collective process of producing militant subjectivities, based not on a variation of the ‘sovereign’ reflexive subject of the Enlightenment tradition but on the constant apprehension of the limits and displacements of political subjectivity and of the need to subject oneself to processes of collective engagement and intervention.

Thus, the Real is constituted by the complex structure of the social totality, the manner in which the economy acts through the overdetermined interaction of distinct instances.11 What Žižek regards as the truly radical act of negativity, around which the individual organizes its subjective destitution, “cannot itself be considered a subject. . . instead, it must be thought of as a structure or, more precisely, an indication of another structure presented in the form of its absence next to the. . . structure [of negativity].”12 Therefore, negativity can never be turned into an abstract philosophical principle; it is always a modality of the system of society in whose reproduction it participates. This social system is not an expression of an originary essence but the conflictual articulation of different instances. In this non-contemporaneous present, what is primary is not abstract negativity but the “differential times of different class projects.”13 Any appearance of unity has to be concretely achieved through the construction and strengthening of hegemonic apparatuses. These apparatuses introduce a change in the balance of forces contained within the interpenetrative interaction of economic, political, ideological, and other instances— with the economy exerting a determining influence. Capitalist society, here, is regarded as a social formation of conflicting, differential, and multilayered forces constantly in flux. The structure of society is immanent within that uneven balance of forces, rather than transcendent on them, even if that transcendence is one of chaotic negativity. Non-contemporaneity disrupts any philosophical attempt to monopolize the truth of politics. Any such truth is a provisional product of the class struggle. That’s why Natalia Romé is right in saying that Žižek’s theory is “on the side of philosophical idealism: first, because it makes psychic causality a metaphysics of historical life, and second, because in doing so, it restores the homogeneity and uniqueness of the discourse of the Philosophy of History in terms of Absolute Knowledge.”14

Quantum Speculations

Žižek thinks that the concrete politics of revolution, which he labels as “revolutionary destitution,” is inferior to subjective destitution.15 The former still presupposes History as a consistent Big Other, as a “finite material reality” that one has to engage with for the revolutionary cause. Subjective destitution, by contrast, is the assumption of the “antagonism/tension in the very heart of the Void which causes the emergence of material reality out of the Void.”16 The reference to the tension of the Void takes us to Žižek’s dubious use of quantum mechanics. In classical physics, the act of measurement is regarded as the passive registration of the pre-existing properties of a system. However, in quantum mechanics, the act of measurement appears to assume a more active role. The quantum system exists in a superposition of all possible states until measured. When a measurement is made, the system “collapses” into one of these states according to the probabilities determined by the system’s wave function. According to Žižek, quantum waves stands for a “proto-reality:” “prior to fully existent reality, there is a chaotic non‐All proto‐reality, a pre‐ontological, virtual fluctuation of a not yet fully constituted Real.”17 This means that the most basic level of reality itself is incomplete and indeterminate, just like the incompletion of the subject of radical negativity. Žižek illustrates this indeterminacy through the example of the Higgs field. The Higgs field is a mechanism to explain why some particles have mass while others don’t. When the Higgs field is “switched off,” particles no longer interact with it to acquire mass, potentially leading to a universe where particles are massless. When the Higgs field is “switched on,” there occurs the spontaneous breaking of electroweak symmetry, and the acquisition of mass by elementary particles. What is important to note here is that “it is energetically favorable for the Higgs field to be switched on and for the symmetries between particles and forces to be broken.”18 Hence, the symmetric phase of the Higgs field is a “false” vacuum as the energy expenditure is not the lowest. The lowest energy expenditure is reached when the electroweak symmetries are broken; this gives rise to the “true” vacuum. Žižek uses this fact to outline a general metaphysical principle: “This is why ‘there is something and not nothing:’ because, energetically, something is cheaper than nothing.”19 There can be no pure void or nothingness of absolute repose because nothingness is inconsistent with itself, with this inconsistency giving rise to something. Nirvana-like nothingness is physically impossible for human beings. This gap between false vacuum and true vacuum allows Žižek to assert that “[w]hat, ultimately, ‘there is’ is only the absolute Difference, the self-repelling Gap.”20 The abstract negativity of the human subject—the impossibility that constitutes it— is cosmologically substantiated through the impossibility of an absolutely peaceful nothingness. Nothingness itself fails to be nothingness and this failure gives rise to something.

Adrian Johnston has written about how it is empirically and experimentally impossible “to carry out an exhaustively thorough reduction of the mid-sized structures and dynamics of human-scale reality to the unimaginably minuscule teeming multitudes of quantum objects and processes.”21 This means that Žižek’s use of quantum mechanics is ontologically, epistemologically, and methodologically arbitrary. What this kind of empty speculation generates is a metaphysical perspective for understanding the world:22

[U]sing “homologies” resting on broad, vague notions of “cheapness” and “energy” to facilitate effortless movement between the “economies” of the ontological, the natural, the libidinal, and the political seems as though it leads right back to the old onto-theological vision of being as an organic Whole of smoothly enmeshed microcosms and macrocosms, a seamless, enchained continuum of recurring patterns embedded within each other in a fractal-like fashion.

Even if we admit the validity of Žižek’s ambition to create a global philosophical system, his interpretation of quantum mechanics shows many deficiencies. Žižek’s use of quantum mechanics is dictated by the attempt to generalize the workings of subjectivity to reality itself. He calls this a “weak anthropic principle” that asks what structures the Real contains so that it can allow for the emergence of subjectivity.23 This principle is applied in order to pre-empt a supposedly “naïve” ontology of “spheres or levels.”24 The existence of hierarchical levels within nature is “commonly accepted not only by contemporary well-known scientists. . . but also by contemporary elementary school students.”25 This scientific consensus about the hierarchy of matter accounts for the dialectical philosophy of Marxian materialism, which is “grounded in human corporeal existence within the physical world, in a context of emergence, or integrated levels.”26 But insofar as Žižek relegates this perspective as pre-modern naivety, his interpretation of quantum mechanics shows a subjectivist bias, in that it is colored by the goal of extending a general schema of human subjectivity to the entire universe.

As per Sean Carroll’s many-world interpretation (MWI), the role of measurement in quantum mechanics doesn’t signify the transformation of a fissured proto-reality (quantum wave oscillations) into the stable world of classical physics. On the contrary, measurement is the process wherein the quantum state is changed into different states on each branch of the new wave function. Branching happens when microscopic processes are “amplified to macroscopic scales: a system in a quantum superposition becomes entangled with a larger system, which then becomes entangled with the environment, leading to decoherence.”27 Thus, in this view, “a measurement is any interaction that causes a quantum system to become entangled with the environment, creating decoherence and a branching into separate worlds, and an observer is any system that brings such an interaction about.”28 Human beings have no special significance here. They are part of the whole wave function that branches into separate worlds. In the words of Carroll:29

Decoherence causes the wave function to split, or branch, into multiple worlds. Any observer branches into multiple copies along with the rest of the universe. After branching, each copy of the original observer finds themselves in a world with some particular measurement outcome. To them, the wave function seems to have collapsed. We know better; the collapse is only apparent, due to decoherence splitting the wave function.

Given the significance of the branching of the wave function, we don’t need to foreground human consciousness in any way. The observer can “be an earthworm, a microscope, or a rock. There’s not even anything special about macroscopic systems, other than the fact that they can’t help but interact and become entangled with the environment. . . Conscious observers branch along with the rest of the wave function, of course, but so do rocks and rivers and clouds.”30 When it comes to the Higgs field, Žižek’s philosophical desire to establish a homological correspondence between human subjectivity and the universe makes him overlook the fact that the tension-riven nothingness of the Void can very well do without humans. The Higgs field can be compared to human subjectivity only because the Higgs field has settled on the value it has, which has enabled the formation of life-compatible structures.31 But it is possible that the Higgs field is metastable, that there is another vacuum state that requires even less energy expenditure.32 This means that humans are living in a false vacuum. The true vacuum, then, no longer corresponds to a world where subjectivity is possible. This invalidates any attempt to institute a homological relation between the Higgs field and subjectivity. What it invites us to consider, on the other hand, is the possibility of new forms of matter that are not bound by the limits of human subjectivity.

Sidney Coleman and Frank De Luccia note that33

[I[n a new vacuum there are new constants of nature; after vacuum decay, not only is life as we know it impossible, so is chemistry as we know it. However, one could always draw stoic comfort from the possibility that perhaps in the course of time the new vacuum would sustain, if not life as we know it, at least some structures capable of knowing joy. This possibility has now been eliminated.

The elimination of this possibility opens a materialist viewpoint that is predicated upon the universal interconnectedness of all forms of motion of matter. In a discussion with Žižek, Carrol articulated this when he remarked:

The basic idea is that the universe evolves from a very orderly low entropy early state to very disorderly messy future, along the way complex structures appear. . . and the implication is that something there in the law of physics and dynamics, there exists the potentiality for something interesting to happen. And even though they weren’t intrinsically embedded in the initial conditions they came to be because of the structure of the dynamics along the way.

This is an underdetermined philosophical view that, in contrast to Žižek’s valorization of the gap, allows scientific knowledge to autonomously reach conclusions about the contingent processes that complexify things into ramified structures. It also ensures an essential diversity of scientific procedures, instead of the universalization of an overblown quantum ontology. Kaan Kangal aptly writes:34

Since different levels of complexity of motion constitute a hierarchy of levels of organization of matter. . . nature needs to be considered a hierarchically-ordered and internally differentiated unity. It is this unity that figures as the precondition for the convergence of particular sciences. Unified knowledge of nature presumes an interconnected unity of differentiated and uneven historical development of discrete sciences.

Leninist Pathways

What alternative do we have to Žižek’s theoretical system? Here, it is instructive to consider his interpretation of Lenin, which can point us towards a politically-viable form of Marxist theory. Žižek notes that the classic Leninist reply to the demand for freedom essentially consists in this: “Freedom— yes, but for WHOM? To do WHAT?”35 This reply implies that criticism will not be tolerated if it is counter-revolutionary. Žižek criticizes this perspective for its obliviousness towards indeterminacy: instead of appreciating how the “objective consequences” of one’s acts are not fully determined in a law-like way, the Leninist reduces those acts to fully-constituted contexts that have been established beforehand through authoritarian power. As Žižek writes, “I decide what your acts objectively mean, since I define the context of a situation (say, if I conceive of my power as the immediate equivalent/expression of the power of the working class, then everyone who opposes me is “objectively” an enemy of the working class).”36 In opposition to this full contextualization, “one should emphasize that freedom is “actual” precisely and only as the capacity to “transcend” the coordinates of a given situation. . . to redefine the very situation within which one is active.”37 When socialist states are analyzed from this vantage point of limitless freedom, they come off as dead regimes whose only reason for legitimacy is the fact that they exist, hence the term “Really-Existing Socialism,” which Žižek considers as “a proof of Socialism’s utter failure”.38 Repudiating the state-socialist legacy, Žižek proceeds to reconfigure classical Leninism to extract a more radical message from him. This message consists of the “fundamental revolutionary Choice”: “the truly free choice is a choice in which I do not merely choose between two or more options WITHIN a pre-given set of coordinates, but I choose to change this set of coordinates itself.”39 Thus, Lenin’s criticism of “formal” freedom does not mean the repression of supposedly counter-revolutionary activity, but the maintenance of the “possibility of the TRUE radical choice:” “formal” freedom is the freedom of choice WITHIN the coordinates of the existing power relations, while “actual” freedom designates the site of an intervention which undermines these very coordinates.”40

The theme of the preservation of the true Choice takes us back to Žižek’s philosophizing of a permanent gap: politics ultimately consists in taking the greatest care to prevent the closure of this gap or impossibility. Revolutionaries have to be constantly aware of this constitutive impossibility. As Žižek writes, “the subject, although fully aware of his/her incompetence to exert authority, assumes it not with a cynical distance but with full sincerity, ready even to sacrifice his/her life for it if needed.”41 However, the problem with this is that it confines politics to a model of subjective intentionality, wherein the individual has to remain aware of the gap that constitutes them. This is inevitable in Žižek’s philosophy because he regards the “objective necessity of history”42 as a fiction that can be reduced to the ontological theme of lack/failure/impossibility. The proletariat can only play a strictly negative role: “while other classes can still maintain the illusion that ‘Society exists,’ and that they have their specific place within the global social body, the very existence of the proletariat repudiates the claim that ‘Society exists.’”43 The working class is revolutionary only because it is dislocated, because it can’t realize its identity in society. Class struggle is not an objective fact, but an index of the impossibility of a fully-constituted society, the failure to attain wholeness.

Class struggle will appear negative only if we restrict ourselves to the individual act of disobedience and disidentification. Žižek does this through extrapolation: just as the individual fantasy masks the impossibility of absolute satisfaction, the “social fantasy” hides the impossibility of a harmonious “social totality.”44 Once we jettison this illegitimate move, we can analyze the uniqueness of collective dynamics. At the transindividual level, class struggle functions as a positive project, which Lenin labeled as the “school of life and struggle.”45 Lenin saw capitalist society not merely as a social fantasy that masks an ontological impossibility, but as a historical architecture that creates its own positive conditions of organization. He illustrated this through the example of the “factory:” “Marxism, the ideology of the proletariat trained by capitalism, has been and is teaching unstable intellectuals to distinguish between the factory as a means of exploitation (discipline based on fear of starvation) and the factory as a means of organization (discipline based on collective work united by the conditions of a technically highly developed form of production).”46 So, the factory is not just a social fantasy that prevents the eruption of radical negativity but a form of “schooling”47 that shapes the proletariat. Whoever doesn’t understand this is a victim of the “aristocratic anarchism” that childishly rails against the stifling effects of the factory48 A communist, by contrast, has to visualize the party itself “‘as an immense factory’ headed by a director in the shape of the Central Committee.”49

Lenin uses a metaphorical formulation to outline the distinctiveness of communist social politics: “it would be more correct to compare the state of society in which we live now not with a jelly, but with metal that is being melted to prepare a more stable alloy.”50 This gives rise to the “iron battalions of the proletariat”51 — a phrase that indicates the objectiveness of political sociality. Revolution includes not just the objectivization of a radical negativity, but the subjectivization of an objective dialectic that exceeds the individual act of subjective destitution. Žižek is fixated upon the possibility of a transcendental gesture that breaks out of the situation. In revolutionary political sequences, this possibility is circumscribed by the materiality of mass struggle that imposes its own rhythms. In the documentary “A Revolt That Never Ends,” Antonio Negri says, “Being part of a movement means accepting its weight…In the end, behavior in those situations is mass behavior. There is no possibility for anyone, including myself, to control historical processes.” The specificity of this objective dialectic of mass movements that exceeds the act of self-relating negativity forces us to institute a new problematic for Marxist materialism. Evald Ilyenkov outlines this problematic in the following way:52

Its [Marxism’s] real subject is the entire historically (dialectically) developing process of social man’s objective cognition of the material world of both natural and socio-historical phenomena, the process of the reflection of this world in the consciousness of individual man and mankind. The process whose result and goal is objective truth. The process which is realized by billions of people in hundreds of successive generations. The process which at every step is verified by practice, experiment, and facts, which is materially embodied…in the form of technology and industry and in the form of the real, social and political conquests consciously made by revolutionary forces under the leadership of their avant-gardethe party.

The entire processual dynamic of human-natural interaction and organized political apparatuses forms the problematic of Marxism. This dynamic establishes “[l]aws which are independent of will and consciousness and which act in cognition with the force of objective necessity, while finally forcing a way through into individual thinking.”53 Taking these laws into account is necessary if we want to replace abstract negativity with the burden of conjuncturally-specific articulations of social totalities.

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  1. Slavoj Žižek, “The Ambiguity of the Masochist Social Link,” in Perversion and the Social Relation (Duke University Press, 2003), 116, 117.
  2. Sally Robinson, “Feminized Men and Inauthentic Women: Fight Club and the Limits of Anti-Consumerist Critique,” May 1, 2011. Available at: https://www.colorado.edu/gendersarchive1998-2013/2011/05/01/feminized-men-and-inauthentic-women-fight-club-and-limits-anti-consumerist-critique.
  3. Žižek, “The Ambiguity of the Masochist Social Link,” 116.
  4. Slavoj Žižek, “Subjective Destitution in Art and Politics: From Being-Towards-Death to Undeadness,” Enrahonar: An International Journal of Theoretical and Practical Reason 70 (2023): https://www.researchgate.net/publication/369722696_Subjective_destitution_in_art_and_politics_From_being-towards-death_to_undeadness.
  5. Slavoj Žižek, “Hegel: The Spirit of Distrust,” in Frank Ruda, Agon Hamza, and Slavoj Žižek, Reading Hegel (Cambridge, UK: Polity Press, 2022).
  6. Slavoj Žižek, “The Vagaries of the Superego,” Elementa 1, no. 1-2 (2021): 25.
  7. Ibid.
  8. Mohammad Reza Naderi, Badiou, Infinity, and Subjectivity: Reading Hegel and Lacan after Badiou (London: Lexington Books, 2024), 136.
  9. Ibid.
  10. Panagiotis Sotiris, A Philosophy for Communism: Rethinking Althusser (Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2020), 518, 519.
  11. Won Choi, “A Structuralist Controversy: Althusser and Lacan on Ideology,” PhD diss., (Loyola University Chicago, 2012), 185.
  12. Ibid., 179.
  13. Peter D. Thomas, The Gramscian Moment: Philosophy, Hegemony, and Marxism (Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2009), 285.
  14. Natalia Romé, For Theory: Althusser and the Politics of Time (London: Rowman & Littlefield, 2021), 30, 31.
  15. Žižek, “Subjective Destitution in Art and Politics,” 80.
  16. Ibid.
  17. Slavoj Žižek, Less Than Nothing: Hegel and the Shadow of Dialectical Materialism (London/New York: Verso, 2012), 912.
  18. Ibid., 944.
  19. Ibid., 945.
  20. Ibid., 378.
  21. Adrian Johnston, Adventures in Transcendental Materialism: Dialogues with Contemporary Thinkers (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2014), 170.
  22. Ibid., 169.
  23. Ibid., 905.
  24. Ibid.
  25. Rogney Piedra Arencibia, “Ilyenkov’s Dialectics of the Ideal and Engels’ Dialectics of Nature: On Ilyenkov’s Supposed Affinity with Western Marxism,” Historical Materialism 30, no. 3 (2021): 17.
  26. John Bellamy Foster, “The Return of the Dialectics of Nature: The Struggle for Freedom as Necessity,” Monthly Review 74, no. 7 (2022): https://monthlyreview.org/2022/12/01/the-return-of-the-dialectics-of-nature/.
  27. Sean Carroll, Something Deeply Hidden: Quantum Worlds and the Emergence of Spacetime (New York City: Dutton, 2019), 231.
  28. Ibid., 137.
  29. Ibid., 134.
  30. Ibid., 137.
  31. Katie Mack, The End of Everything (Astrophysically Speaking) (New York: Scribner, 2020), 142.
  32. Ibid.
  33. Sidney Coleman and Frank De Luccia, cited in Mack, The End of Everything, 154.
  34. Kaan Kangal, “Engel’s Emergentist Dialectics,” Monthly Review 72, no. 6 (2020): https://monthlyreview.org/2020/11/01/engelss-emergentist-dialectics/.
  35. Slavoj Žižek, On Belief (London/New York: Routledge, 2001), 114.
  36. Ibid., 114, 115.
  37. Ibid., 115.
  38. Ibid.
  39. Ibid., 121, 122.
  40. Ibid.
  41. Žižek, “The Vagaries of the Superego,” 21.
  42. Žižek, The Universal Exception, ed. Rex Butler and Scott Stephens (London/New York: Continuum: 2006), 69.
  43. Ibid., 111.
  44. Ibid., 89.
  45. V.I. Lenin, Collected Works Vol. 26 (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1964), 402.
  46. V.I. Lenin, Collected Works Vol. 7(Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1961), 389.
  47. Ibid.
  48. Ibid.
  49. Ibid.
  50. Lenin, Collected Works Vol. 26, 218.
  51. Ibid., 277.
  52. Evald Ilyenkov, Leninist Dialectics and the Metaphysics of Positivism. Reflections on Lenin’s Book: ‘Materialism and Empirio-Criticism’ (London: New Park Publications, 1982), 65.
  53. Ibid., 75.