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Žižek vs. Chomsky

It’s hard to think of two men better suited for each other, both ideologically and temperamentally, than Slavoj Žižek and Noam Chomsky. Lucky for us readers, they’ve gotten into a spat. Chomsky accused Žižek of not actually having a philosophical or political theory, relying instead on rhetoric and comedic behavior. Žižek’s response is, as usual, pointed and entertaining:

What is that about, again, the academy and Chomsky and so on? Well with all deep respect that I do have for Chomsky, my first point is that Chomsky, who always emphasizes how one has to be empirical, accurate, not just some crazy Lacanian speculations and so on… well I don’t think I know a guy who was so often empirically wrong in his descriptions in his whatever! Let’s look… I remember when he defended this demonstration of Khmer Rouge. And he wrote a couple of texts claiming: No, this is Western propaganda. Khmer Rouge are not as horrible as that.” And when later he was compelled to admit that Khmer Rouge were not the nicest guys in the Universe and so on, his defense was quite shocking for me. It was that “No, with the data that we had at that point, I was right. At that point we didn’t yet know enough, so… you know.” But I totally reject this line of reasoning.

Indeed, just how valuable is a strong philosophical theory which cannot spot despotism and violence when it actually appears. But then again, we thought that Žižek also liked despotism and violence. These things are surely too deep for us…

By Steven Wedgeworth

Steven Wedgeworth is the associate pastor of Faith Presbyterian Church in Vancouver, British Columbia. He writes about theology, history, and political theory, and he has taught Jr. High and High School. He is the founder and general editor of The Calvinist International, an online journal of Christian Humanism and political theology, and a Director for the Davenant Institute.