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Positioning the Intellectual: Žižek as a Sociological Phenomenon



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This dissertation offers a sociological examination of the rise to prominence of Slavoj Žižek—the Slovene philo-superstar and intellectual celebrity. Drawing upon cultural sociology and the sociology of intellectual interventions, the dissertation widens the application of Positioning Theory, suggesting that Žižek’s unique mode of intellectual intervention, ‘super-positioning’, is the key to his rise as a global public intellectual. The dissertation traces the contexts, performances, and relations through which Žižek’s intellectual interventions became an international printed and digital phenomenon. It begins with Slovenia’s and Yugoslavia’s intellectual, political, and cultural positioning, followed by Žižek’s unique and multiple reactions. It then moves on to France and the UK as the initial sites for Žižek’s global emergence, followed by the US through which he became a global public phenomenon. The dissertation explains Žižek’s attractive originality through his ability to narrate the present, create novel intellectual and political positions, and perform them in his invented language of ‘Hegelacanese’ and repertoire of rhetorical questions, jokes, and examples. It also describes the current consequences of such a complex super-positioning, namely the media-academia trade-off in which Žižek’s public success, for example becoming an ‘Internet philosopher’, comes at the price of sacrificing his intellectual position. Situated carefully between the purely objective historiography and the subjective psychobiography, the dissertation reveals the social aspects of the Žižekian phenomenon, from inception to reception, and bridges the individuality and singularity of Žižek with the social and general conditions of his emergence. As such, this exploration is not only about Žižek, but the society that created him.





Baert, Patrick


Positioning, Public, Intellectual, Intervention, Žižek


Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Awarding Institution

University of Cambridge