Slavoj ‘i’ek: biography of the Slovenian philosopher and politician
Slavoj ‘i’ek is known for explaining psychoanalytic theory through examples from popular culture and film. He has also gained fame by being very harsh in criticizing the current state of politics.
His novel vision of Lacan and Hegel and his way of violently attacking other philosophical and cultural positions that have appeared in recent decades, such as the third wave of feminism, cognitivism and New Age beliefs, have earned him the nickname of the most dangerous philosopher in Europe.
- You may be interested in: “20 phrases of Slavoj ‘i’ek that will make you think”
Biography of Slavoj ‘i’ek
Let us take a closer look at the exciting life and work of this Slovenian philosopher.
Slavoj ‘i’ek was born in Ljubljana, present-day Slovenia , on March 21, 1949, into a Yugoslav middle-class family.
‘i’ek spent most of his childhood living in Portoro, where he had the opportunity to learn about theories, popular culture and films from the West.
In his adolescence, ‘i’ek’s family returned to Ljubljana, where the young Slavoj studied at the Institute in Be’igrad.
During the 60’s, Yugoslavia was involved in a series of measures imposed by President Josip Broz Tito that allowed certain airs of liberalization in the socialist country.
Thanks to this, ‘i’ek had the opportunity to study philosophy and sociology at the University of Ljubljana.
During his university years, ‘i’ek had the opportunity to establish contact with some intellectual dissidents, as well as publishing in alternative magazines such as Praxis, Tribuna and Problemi.
In 1971 he was accepted to work in the field of research on a permanent basis, however, he was finally rejected because the authorities considered that his master’s thesis was not Marxist.
In the following years he did his military service in the Yugoslav Army in Karlovac.
‘i’ek has had a prolific intellectual life translating into Slovenian the works of great thinkers such as Sigmund Freud, Jacques Lacan and Louis Althusser.
In 1979, he joined the sociology department of the Institute of Social Sciences at the University of Ljubljana.
At the end of the seventies he founded, together with other Yugoslav psychoanalyst colleagues, the Society of Theoretical Psychoanalysis.
In 1985 ‘i’ek obtained a doctorate in philosophy in psychoanalysis at the University of Paris VIII.
His surname became famous worldwide in 1989 with the publication of his first book in English: The Sublime Object of Ideology.
He has also contributed to several newspapers such as the American Lacanian Ink and In These Times, The New Left and The London Review of Books in the UK, as well as several magazines in his native Slovenia.
In 2007 the International Journal of ‘i’ Studies was founded, an Open Access research journal that has become the inspiration for the creation of four operas based on the Slovenian philosopher’s publications, announced by the British Royal Opera House in 2013.
Since the late 1980s, ‘i’ek became known for being a columnist in the alternative youth magazine Mladina , in which he took a critical view of President Tito’s measures and especially of the militarization of society.
‘i’ek was a member of the Slovenian communist party until 1988, however, that year he resigned along with 32 other Slovenian intellectuals in protest at the JBTZ impeachment trial, in which four newspaper editors were convicted of being critical of the Yugoslav army.
At the end of the 1980s he participated in various social and political movements calling for the arrival of democracy in the Slavic country, participating in the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights.
In the first free elections held in Slovenia, ‘i’ek ran as the Liberal Democratic Party’s candidate for the country’s presidency.
One of the reasons why he joined this party and not others closer to communism, according to ‘i’ek, was to prevent Slovenia from becoming a country like Croatia or Serbia, where nationalism was achieving great hegemony.
Despite having participated in liberal projects, he has always been very critical of ideologies located mostly on the right side of the political spectrum, such as nationalism, conservatism and liberalism in its most classic version. In fact, the ‘i’ek himself considers himself a ‘radical Stalinist philosopher’.
Already in the year 2000, he moved away from parliamentary activity, but published various analyses of the political situation, showing his support, not always in the most politically correct way, for left-wing parties at European level, such as Syriza and Podemos.
Slavoj ‘i’ek has a son and has been married a total of three times: first to a Slovenian philosopher, Renata Saleci, then to a model Analia Houlie, and finally to Jela Krečič. He is fluent in Slovenian, Serbo-Croatian, French, German and English .
We will now learn what are the keys to understanding Slavoj ‘i’ek’s ideas in different fields.
1. Criticism of multiculturalism and nationalism
‘i’ek has been very critical of current political ideologies . His starting point is that nationalism and liberalism should not be conceived as if they were two completely autonomous worlds that do not interact with each other, but rather act as the extremes of the same logic.
Thus, these two ways of seeing the world must be analyzed not only at the economic level but also at the libidinal level, that is, how by interacting with each other they are in turn the creators of other political ideologies that seek to achieve maximum pleasure/satisfaction for the person.
On this basis, the conclusions of ‘i’ek is that multiculturalism, i.e. the idea that promotes tolerance in any social movement, is in turn the cause of what it seeks to address.
‘i’ek rejects the hybrid ideologies that he says are the result of the liberal left, which he says is only the politically correct way of showing the most ferocious capitalism.
This vision of ‘i’ek can be found more deeply explained in several works:
- The permanence of the negative (2016)
- Who said totalitarianism? five interventions on the (mis)use of the notion (2002)
- The metastases of Joy. Six essays on women and causality (2003)
- The new class struggle. Refugees and terror (2016)
- Cultural Studies. Reflections on Multiculturalism (1998)
- In Defense of Intolerance (2008)
2. State and Political Overview
‘i’ek considers the state to be a system that regulates the behaviour of its citizens and shapes it in the image of his ideal vision of how society should behave.
Unfortunately, in the view of this same philosopher, political decisions have been transformed into something normal and indisputable instead of being properly contextualized at the time they are made.
An example of this is how certain ideologies, especially right-wing ones, advocate cutting back on basic services, treating them as if they were something objective and extremely necessary.
Although in Western societies there has been greater citizen participation in government decisions, whether through elections or referenda, many of these decisions are made in the interests of capital rather than social welfare.
- Kotsko, A. (2008). Politics and Perversion: Situating ‘i’ ek’s Paul. Journal for Cultural and Religious Theory. 9 (2): 48.
- Boyle, K. (2016). “The Four Fundamental Concepts of Slavoj ‘i’ ek’s Psychoanalytic Marxism.” International Journal of ‘i`ek Studies. Vol 2.1.
- ‘i’ek, S. (1989). The Sublime Object of Ideology. New York: Verso.
- Sinnerbrink, R. (2008). The Hegelian ‘Night of the World’: ‘i’ on Subjectivity, Negativity, and Universality. International Journal of ‘i’ Studies. 2 (2).
- Holbo, J. (2004). On ‘i’ek and Trilling. Philosophy and Literature. 28 (2): 430–440.