CHICAGO – Michael O’Grady and Saul Feinstein are two members of a small Marxist reading group in Chicago. It is composed of PhD students with an interest in Marxism, “but not in a dogmatic way”, from Philosophy Departments at the University of Chicago, Northwestern University and DePaul University. Having all graduated from top undergraduate programmes across the US, they chose to pursue their PhDs in Chicago, working mostly on Badiou, Rancière and Žižek. Following the advice of their advisers, they had been attempting to read some of the classics of the German and Marxist philosophical traditions, promptly finding themselves completely lost in horrendously difficult texts containing no pop culture references or dirty jokes. Thus, they started the “Pervert’s Guide to Ideology Reading Group” to struggle through the difficult task together.
Eventually they came to grasp the basics of the views of Kant, Hegel and Marx, as well as some foundational texts by Vladimir Lenin, “just to get an idea of what he was all about.” Upon returning to their treasured libraries of Žižek’s work, they were horrified to discover that they comprised a mere assemblage of copied ideas mixed with wild cross-references. O’Grady explained:
“I was already getting increasingly worried before, you know. I thought the idea that the most interesting aspect of Greek tragedy was the chorus that was the democratic instance representing the people was a great insight from Žižek. When I told a fellow PhD student from Austria, he was less than impressed and told me that this was already elaborated on by the Austrian critic Egon Friedell in his ‘Cultural History of Greece.’ But when I actually read Hegel, Marx, and Lenin, I realised how much Žižek had copied out of their works and presented as his own. I’m shocked. I don’t even know what to do with myself.”
Feinstein was also deeply affected by learning the truth about his former idol: “It’s just fucked up, you know? We came here thinking we were gonna take on the world, write PhD theses that get quoted during a revolution or something, I don’t even know. But now we understand how little we really knew, and what a fraud our main inspiration is. I mean, come on, doing a PhD in philosophy, you don’t do it to get girls, do you?”
“Although Žižek had all of his model wives. That was a source of hope for us too. Was he even married to an Argentinian model, or was that bullshit too?”