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fig.34—Q: Can’t we all just get along?  A: Yes, periodically.


“In the present ideological constellation, when the glorification of (post­-modern) ‘culture’ at the expense of (modern) ‘civilization’ is again fashionable (the German culture against the allegedly superficial Anglo-Saxon or French civilization, etc.), it would be theoretically productive to arrange into a semiotic square the two oppositions of culture­-primitivism and civilization­-barbarism:”

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Why, yes—it would be productive! So why did Žižek bury it in a  1992 footnote? In fig.34, we make a pivotal adjustment to his diagram: instead of uniformly bilateral arrows linking the four corners (semes, terms, nodes, etc.) we indicate unilateral shifts as proper to historical evolution, or revolution, or, as it were, de­-evolution.

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    . . . phantasy . . . injunction . . . scapegoating . . . mimesis . . . 


“The crucial point not to be missed here is that culture and barbarism do not exclude each other: the opposite of barbarism is not culture but civilization (i.e. ‘non­-civilized’ equals ‘barbaric’); in other words, culture in itself, in so far as it is affirmed in its opposition to civilization, sets free an unmistakable barbaric potential.”—so, how to parse the pro’s prose? We break it down into chunks of connective phrase by which he indicates entailment (per our italics):


“the [1] glorification of ... ‘culture’ [2] at the expense of ‘civilization’... culture [3] against the [4] allegedly superficial ... civilization ... two [5] oppositions of culture­-primitivism and [of] civilization-barbarism ... culture and barbarism [6] do not exclude each other: the [7] opposite of barbarism [8] is not culture [9] but civilization ... ‘non­-civilized’ [10] equals ‘barbaric’ [he then recaps, as follows:] culture [11] in itself, [12] in so far as it [13] is affirmed in its [14] opposition to civilization, [15] sets free an unmistakably barbaric [16] potential.

© 2008-2012 Ian C Thorne. all rights reserved. about credits privacy contact share