By Tibor Machan

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Subjects knew very well that the state really was the enemy of workers’ selfmanagement. Yet this knowledge did not affect their loyalty to the status quo. indd 42 5/3/10 15:31:57 žižek and the radical-democratic critique of ideology reason to challenge the authorities to make good on their promise to cede power. As Žižek puts it in The Sublime Object of Ideology, what was in play here was a kind of ‘enlightened false consciousness’ or ‘ideological cynicism’. Such ideology ‘no longer has the pretension .

It also speaks powerfully to the political situation and lived experience of subjects in Western liberal-capitalist societies. Mass media exposés of political corruption and incompetence are a regular feature of democratic politics, with the consequence that most citizens are cynical and apathetic. Everybody knows that global capitalism involves shocking poverty and misery in the developing world, that the later modern state is largely captive to private interests and lobby groups, yet nobody does anything about this.

By contrast, for Romanticism, the bridge between human nature and social freedom is to be crossed using some irrational force – the Imagination, unconscious fantasy, the non-rational drives and so forth. Philosophical Romanticism holds that human rationality is not the deepest or most characteristic human trait, and that – indeed – human rationality is always underlain and undermined by forces, affects or truths accessible only to artistic experience or religious faith. prompted Žižek to change tack, switching from the one horn of his dilemma to the other.

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