Slavoj Zizek is a Slovenian philosopher and cultural critic internationally known for his innovative and idiosyncratic interpretations of Jacques Lacan. He also works in the traditions of Hegelianism and Marxism and has made contributions to theoretical psychoanalysis, political theory and film theory. Zizek has been called "the Elvis Presley" of cultural studies and philosophy.
Zizek was born on March 21, 1949 in Ljubljana, Slovenia, to a middle-class family. He earned a bachelor's degree in philosophy and sociology at the University of Ljubljana in 1971. He went on to pursue a master's degree at the same university and wrote what was described as a "brilliant" master's thesis on the French philosophers he had been studying. Zizek obtained his master's degree in philosophy in 1975. He enrolled at the Universite Paris-VIII and received a doctoral degree in psychoanalysis in 1985. By that time he was making his mark as an expert on French psychoanalyst Lacan.
Zizek is a returning faculty member of the European graduate school and founder and president of the Society for Theoretical Psychoanalysis in Ljubljana. He is a senior researcher at the Institute for sociology and philosophy at the University of Ljubljana. Zizek has been a visiting professor at, among others, Universite Paris-VIII, University of Minnesota, Columbia University, Princeton University, University of Michigan, the New School, New York and Georgetown University, Washington.
In a period spanning 20 years, Zizek has participated in more than 350 international philosophical, psychoanalytical and cultural-criticism symposiums in the United States, France, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Iceland, Austria, Australia, Switzerland, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Spain, Brazil, Mexico, Israel, Romania, Hungary and Japan. Zizek is author of The Indivisible Remainder, The Sublime Object of Ideology, The Metastases of Enjoyment, Looking Awry: An Introduction to Jacques Lacan Through Popular Culture, The Plague of Fantasies and the Ticklish Subject. His books tackle the topics of subjectivity, ideology, popular culture, religion, capitalism, globalisation, totalitarianism, the Iraq War, human rights and political theology.
Zizek received international recognition as a social theorist with the publication of his first book, The Sublime Object of Ideology in 1989. He focused on the work of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831) through the prism of Lacan's thought. The book drew new links between philosophy and psychoanalysis by comparing the ideas of these two thinkers about the Other as anything that is not part of the Self. One feature of Zizek's work is its singular philosophical and political re-reading of German idealism of Kant, Schelling and Hegel. Zizek has also reinvigorated the challenging psychoanalytic theory of Lacan by controversially reading him as a thinker who carries forward founding modernist commitments to the Cartesian subject. Furthermore, Zizek strives to discern the Lacanian Real amid the propaganda of systems.
On the one hand, Zizek explains and widens Lacan's complex ideas about perception, desire and aggression, as well as the concepts of the Real, the Imaginary and the Symbolic, by illustrating them with examples from popular culture and everyday life. He uses Lacanian psychoanalysis, Hegelian philosophy and Marxist economic criticism to throw light on current social phenomena. Zizek adapts the psychoanalytic notion that individuals are always "split" subjects to the context of political doctrines. Thus, throughout his work subjects are always divided between what they consciously know about political things and a set of more or less unconscious beliefs they hold about individuals in authority or the political regime they live in. Zizek also makes a clear-cut distinction between knowledge and belief, which is related to the sublime objects posited by political ideologies such as God, the Father, the King.
Zizek's work since 1997 has taken on an increasingly engaged political tenor. He contests the widespread consensus that we live in a post-ideological or post-political world and defends the possibility of lasting changes to the new world order of globalization, the end of history, or the war on terror. Zizek's work is regarded as being highly appealing with his mesmerizing language and intellectual parables. His speeches are interspersed with observations on diverse topics and he has been known to start a lecture by explaining the ethical heroism of Keanu Reeves in the film Speed, exposing the philosophical basis of Viagra and ending with a disclose of the paradoxical value of Christianity to Marxism.