Zizek's The Fragile Absolute

kenneth.mackendrick at utoronto.ca kenneth.mackendrick at utoronto.ca
Sat Aug 19 13:57:47 PDT 2000

On Sat, 19 Aug 2000 21:52:17 +0200 (SAST) Peter van Heusden <pvh at egenetics.com> wrote:

> I know there are a number of Zizek fans on this list, so I'll ask here:?

> What do people think of Zizek's new book, 'The Fragile Absolute'? I came
> across it while in San Diego at a conference, and the sub-head:
> Why the Christian Legacy is Worth Fighting For is certain something to
> catch the eye. I only had a chance to read the intro, but I'd be very
> interested in what people who have read the whole book have to say.

I'm keenly interested in this book, which, to the best of my knowledge, has not yet been distributed in Canada yet. However, a copy is in the mail for me and I should receive it sometime this week.

Zizek's big influence (I take it) on this is a Lacanian reading of Paul's Christian efforts, based on Badiou's reading. I've read only a single essay by Badiou and didn't understand a work of it. A summary of B's take on Paul can also be found in Sexuation edited by Renata Salecl, written by Alenka Zupancic entitled "The Case of the Perforated Sheet."

>From that essay, Badiou starts from Saint Paul's distinction between the flesh
and the spirit, and proposes a theory of the way in which this distinction articulates the Lacanian configuration of law, desire, sin and love by extracting the couple flesh-spirit from the conceptual field constituted by the couple body-soul and lining it to the couple death-life.

If you are familiar with Lacan at all then the reading almost figures itself via his essay Kant avec Sade which both Zizek (Plague of Fantasies, The Indivisible Remainder) and Zupancic (Ethics of the Real) have written extensively.

>From the sounds of it, the notion of universality that Zizek is going to defend
is the idea of universality as an "immanent exception." Guessing about this: the main points will emphasis a discussion of the relation between life and death; drive and desire; symptom and sinthome which will all be illustrated through Pauline logic. My guess is that the fragile absolute refers to the 'fragile' status of a jouissance of the infinite, a jouissance / enjoyment that does not lose reference to castration. Phallic jouissance, on the other hand, always has to ensure its reference to castration by making things inaccessible. Whereas Paul might have said, "With God, all things are possible" Zizek's rallying cry might be "With feminine jouissance, all things are impossible" and to this end we must remain 'faithful' to this moment of impossibility in politics, and take our symptoms seriously.

I'm just guessing, but I'll post a more detailed review after I've read the text.


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