Beyond Naïve Leftist Philosophy in Education – On Žižek’s Lacanian Politics and Pedagogy
The Institute of Education, Dublin City University, IE
Jones Irwin is a Senior Lecturer in Philosophy and Education at the Institute of Education, Dublin City University, Dublin. He is also Project Officer for the first state multi-belief curriculum (GMGY) for primary schools with NCCA. His research interests are in Contemporary European philosophy, especially the topics of education, aesthetics, ethics and politics. He has published three main texts to date, Derrida and The Writing of the Body (Ashgate, Surrey, 2010), Paulo Freire's Philosophy of Education (Continuum, London, 2012) and Žižek and his Contemporaries: The Emergence of the Slovenian Lacan (Bloomsbury, London, 2014). He is just completing his next monograph, The Pursuit of Existentialism: From Sartre and Beauvoir to Contemporary Philosophy (Routledge, London, 2017).
If Slavoj Žižek belongs to a rather later generation of thinkers influenced by French philosophy, his allegiance to a Lacanian conceptual framework both aligns him and distinguishes him from the lineage of Derrida, Foucault, Deleuze etc. In this sense, the significance of Lacan’s thought for education is still to be properly considered and its contemporary articulation in the work of Žižek seems a good place to register this understanding and analysis. What marks out Žižek’s work and the relation to the Former Yugoslavia is the way in which the internal dialogue of Marxism evolves in a very particular way in the latter context, with an allegiance emerging between Marx, Lacan and a radical form of psychoanalysis.
In this essay, I foreground how Žižek’s work polemically takes us away from a (utopian and all-too-easy) resolution to the contradictions of contemporary society, politics and education. Rather, in society as in the educational sphere, a Žižekian and (Lacanian) psychoanalytical critique of ideology is one where a certain ‘deadlock’ must be borne, both at the level of subject and at the societal level. This emphasis on the recalcitrance of ideology and a certain irreducibility of alienation, both societal and pedagogical, would be at least one of the lessons we might take from Žižek’s recent work and the wider discourse of the Ljubljana School of Psychoanalysis.