Žižek follows Louis Althusser in jettisoning the Marxist equation: "ideology equals false consciousness." Ideology, to all intents and purposes, is consciousness. Ideology does not "mask" the real—one cannot achieve true consciousness. This being the case, post-ideological postmodern "knowingness"—the cynicism and irony of postmodern cultural production—does not reveal the truth, the real, the hard kernel. Knowing that we are being "lied" to is hardly the stuff of revolution when ideology is not, and never has been, simply a matter of consciousness, of subject positions, but is the very stuff of everyday praxis itself. The cynics and ironists, not to mention the deconstructionists et al., may know that reality is an "ideological construction"—some have even read their Lacan and Derrida—but in their daily practice, caught up in an apparently unalterable world of exchange-values (capital), they do their part to sustain that construction in any case. As Marx would say, it is their very life process that is ideological, what they know, or what they think they know, being neither here nor there. The postmodern cultural artifact—the "critique," the "incredulity"—is itself merely a symptom/commodity fetish. Thus has capital commodified even the cynicism that purports to unmask its "reality," to "emancipate."
Today, in the aftermath of the "end of ideology", Žižek is critical of the way political decisions are justified; the way, for example, reductions in social programs are sometimes presented as an apparently 'objective' necessity, though this is no longer a valid basis for political discourse. He sees the current "talk about greater citizen involvement" or "political goals circumscribed within the rubric of the cultural" as having little effectiveness as long as no substantial measures are devised for the long run. But measures such as the "limitation of the freedom of capital" and the "subordination of the manufacturing processes to a mechanism of social control"—these Žižek calls a "radical re-politicization of the economy" (A Plea for Intolerance).
So at present Slavoj Žižek is arguing for a politicization of the economy. For indeed the "tolerant" multicultural impulse, as the dogma of today's liberal society, suppresses the crucial question: How can we reintroduce into the current conditions of globalization the genuine space of the political? He also argues in favor of a "politicization of politics" as a counter balance to post-politics. In the area of political decision making in a democratic context he criticizes the two-party system that is dominant in some countries as a political form of a "post-political era", as a manifestation of a possibility of choice that in reality does not exist.
Politicization is thus for him present whenever "a particular demand begins to function as a representative of the impossible universal". Žižek sees class struggle not as localized objective determinations, as a social position vis-à-vis capital but rather as lying in a "radically subjective" position: the proletariat is the living, "embodied contradiction". Only through particularism in the political struggle can any universalism emerge. Fighting for workers interests often appears discredited today ("indeed in this domain the workers themselves only wish to implement their own interests, they fight only for themselves and not for the whole"). The problem is how to foster a politicizing politics in the age of post-politics. Particular demands, acting as a "metaphorical condensation", would thus aim at something that transcends those particular demands, a genuine reconstruction of the social framework. Žižek, following Jacques Ranciere, sees the real political conflict as being that between an ordered structure of society and those without a place in it, the "part that has no part" in anything but nonetheless causes the structure to falter, because it refers to—i.e. embodies—an "empty principle" of the "universal".
The very fact that a society is not easily divided into classes, that there is no "simple structural trait" for it, that for instance the "middle class" is also intensely fought over by a populism of the right, is a sign of this struggle. Otherwise "class antagonism would be completely symbolized" and no longer both impossible and real at the same time ("impossible/real"). His solution to capitalism is a rapid repoliticization of the economy.
Slavoj Žižek's notoriety in academic
circles has increased rapidly,
especially since he began publishing widely in English. Many hundreds
of academics have addressed aspects of Žižek's work in professional
Inevitably, in the course of such scholarly discussion, many other
thinkers differ with aspects of Žižek conceptual approach or specific
arguments. While there is no indication that Žižek has received more
criticism than have other continental philosophers of similar repute, a
great number of writers have taken critical stances to Slavoj Žižek's