There has been one constant in my career as a Zizek expositor: no one cares about the parts where I discuss Zizek’s dialectical materialism. This may reflect on my feeble skills, but it also reflects a broader trend — no one seems to take Zizek’s development of dialectical materialism very seriously. Ideology critique, counter-intuitive political claims, remarks on film — that’s what really gets the attention.
To my mind, though, the deeper ontological questions Zizek is getting at with dialectical materialism are by far the most interesting things about him, the area where he is making a serious contribution. His notion of the universe as “non-all” or “non-whole” is very productive, and it’s not just idle speculation — he links it up with the frontiers of modern science. His chapter on cognitive science in Parallax View is a real tour de force (Jameson agrees), but it seems to have been greeted by total silence. Similarly, his discussions of quantum silence are dismissed as bullshit, apparently on an a priori basis, if they’re noticed at all.
What is going on here? Perhaps it’s a mismatch in his audience — the continental or theory crowds aren’t used to taking science seriously, and the analytic types and the scientists themselves aren’t used to taking “postmodern theorists” like Zizek seriously. I fear it’s just going to be Adrian Johnston and me, crying out in the wilderness — or rather, just Adrian Johnston, as I’m not sure my future research agenda has room for more than a few occasional pieces on Zizek.