WW: Why “subjective” and “objective”?
Slavoj Zizek: What I mean [by “subjective”] is, we see an actual subject who committed the violence, like Communists or the Nazis. Objective violence is more impersonal, so we sometimes don’t even perceive it as such.
So, objective violence lies behind the more obvious violence?
No, but it is more radical. It is violence inscribed into the very social structure. If someone attacks you, you might think of this as a violent interruption of nonviolent normality. But this violence is already inscribed in the same social rules that were violated when they attacked you. One has to be aware of this so that violence doesn’t merely seem like some explosion of the irrational. I ironically refer to objective violence as “dark matter.” You don’t see it, but it’s there.
Is there hope for a society not founded on violence?
Violence is in a way consubstantial with being human, and with language. But the forms of objective violence can be changed. The tragedy of this past century is that the more aggressively nonviolent our ideology gets—dopey political correctness, heightened sensitivity toward violence—the more this can generate new forms of very brutal violence, including the current war on terror. The predominant antiviolent ideology of today...has a violent potential of its own.
Thanks for talking with us.
Yes, sure. And remember, I’m a good old-fashioned Orwellian. If you know better than me what I wanted to say, just go ahead and write it. You’re the master here.
That’s a relief.
ATTEND: Slavoj Zizek reads on Tuesday, Sept. 9, at Powell’s City of Books, 1005 W Burnside St., 228-0540. 7:30 pm. Free. Read a longer Q&A on wweek.com.