žižek on love

In this essay in the New Left Review, Zižek makes some interesting claims about the nature of love, some of which I think I have read or heard elsewhere — he seems to recycle certain of his own arguments. Anyway:

Love is a choice that is experienced as necessity. At a certain point, one is overwhelmed by the feeling that one already is in love, and that one cannot do otherwise. By definition, therefore, comparing qualities of respective candidates, deciding with whom to fall in love, cannot be love. This is the reason why dating agencies are an anti-love device par excellence.

That echoes to a degree Eva Illouz’s argument in Cold Intimacies about the efficiency of relationships conditioned by modern communications technologies and technologies of the self. But it is an almost commonplace idea, really: Love strikes us as a compulsion, a craziness, an overwhelming of our resistance or our reluctance or our comfortable, established ways. It forces us to be different, to go against our grain.

Later Zižek, discussing possible modes of Left resistance in the era of biopower and so on, he declares: “An act is more than an intervention into the domain of the possible — an act changes the very coordinates of what is possible and thus retroactively creates its own conditions of possibility.” That seems an even better definition of love, a leap into an impossibility that afterward seems to have been inevitable, inescapable.

What makes that leap possible? How do we act in the face of what is impossible? Falling in love perhaps models how we can suddenly find ourselves acting without an operative sense what is “realistic” or possible. “We will be forced to live ‘as if we were free’. We will have to risk taking steps into the abyss, in totally inappropriate situations; we will have to reinvent aspects of the new.” Revolution would require a collective love for an idea that enchants each of us as if we were the only one.


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