In this matchup, we have two still breathing Giants of European intelligentsia, who agree that ideology must be the critique of cynicism. However, but of course, like every other philosopher in the history of thought, they disagree on everything else.
At first, both Giants claim that cynicism is about how ideology is consolidated, quite in a fine and subtle manner after that of the Enlightenment that failed, because it is against itself. If modern consciousness is determined to be completely inconsistent in essence, then the critique of ideology, which is the secret technique of Enlightenment, must become sophisticated and up to date by moving on to the critique of cynicism. Both Giants insist that this will revive the Enlightenment dream.
At the cliff of nihilism, both Giants square off. Daring one another to take a fatal misstep. The first Giant, Slavoj Zizek steps back and refuses to peer into the abyss. The other Giant, Peter Sloterdijk, however, has peeked just a bit – and long enough to assert overstatements like that ideological critique is toothless, totally inert, since we’ve now moved into the Post-Ideology epoch. Yes, there is no longer any distinction between ideology and reality. And Baudrillard is on line one. On cue.
Zizek, to counter such coprophilic narcissism, fends off the infection with his favorite Talking Dummy, the Dogmatic Marxist, and through philoso-ventriloquism, asserts that Marx’s old definition on consciousness is the solution.
Ideology is in the act! Not in the head!
In other words, ideology exceeds what we think about a situation, because it is built into the situation itself. It won’t matter if you oppose exploitative labor, but buy products from companies that depend on exploitative labor. Wear GAP. Banana Republic. Abercrombie & Fitch. Apple iPhones. iPads, & etcetera. By using these products of exploited laborers in third world countries, you are supporting and perpetuating exploitative ideology. The ideology consists of the situation. Not in hypocritical rhetoric or utopian fantasies.
At this point, Sloterdijk is chuckling. Of course, this is precisely enlightened false consciousness – which is nothing but pure cynicism. The self-ironization or lucid bad faith of people completely capable of seeing beyond their fake-ass rationalizations.
There is a huge gap between what our society does and what it claims. This performative contradiction is rationalized, and this very rationalization is made ironically self-conscious. That is why self-ironization reinforces ideological ends. As cynics, we are no innocent victims of false consciousness, like your Talking Dummy Marx thinks, or what Zizek is trying his hardest to convince us of. We all know exactly what we are doing. And we just keep on keepin’ on. Therefore we are conveniently armored against classic ideological critique, which condescends that we are agents without complete possession of our own motivations.
Zizek has no comeback. His critique of cynicism as ideological fantasy is just another ventriloquist act, echoing Marx’s traditional ideological critique. His rebuttal of the insane Sloterdijk merely recasts his thesis – that we know but we do it anyway – in different terms. Perhaps cynicism is what we need. Then again, perhaps we need a fucking kynick to contrast the cynic, and who better than Zizek?