I refer to the following video, in which Zizek remarks about Cartesianism, as that which had made “The West” great:
I hold that what Zizek perceives as an actuality of Cartesianism (a present benefit)is still only a potential benefit.
Zizek’s blindspot concerns gender — a blindspot that is perfectly logical, given his intellectual debt to Lacan, who tends to naturalise gender categories by making them out to be a product of “the psyche” rather than a product of “the social”.
Zizek doesn’t sufficiently understand the politics of gender and the way it is currently being played out. Elsewhere, he chastises Judith Butler for her resounding emphasis on the issue of gender, as if such a focus rightfully belonged only to the sidelines of real revolutionary consciousness. So the patriarch effectively goes “tut, tut, tut,” and merely confirms his patriarchal bias by his estimation of what really holds value — (Hint: it is not a woman’s perspective on the matter.)
In his general outlook, Zizek is not feminist, but Hegelian. He puts his faith in Modernity to lead us forwards. Modernity, with its mind-body dualism does not actually liberate us effectively enough from the shackles of gender, however, as Lacan’s own theorising adequately demonstrates.
(Lacan’s views on gender are more philosophically idealist than materialist, upholding the notion of gender positions rather than core gender identities — a nod to the structuralist approach of early 20th Century French anthopological theory. Gender essentialism is even also reinstated in the non-traditionalist dimensions of Lacan’s approach, to the extent that the structuralist ‘subject’ does not have the right (ie. avenues) to appeal against their structural position if he or she feels themselves to have been incorrectly cast.)
According to my quick analysis of Lacanian theory above, Lacan’s Cartesianism certainly does not liberate us from patriarchal oppression. It may seem to liberate us from material (ie. biological) determinism, but it stops short.
On the basis of Cartesianism, then, we only half-way free from gender essentialism. The sense of a biological determinism to gender may be, and often is, de-emphasised by virtue of the instigation of a system of mind-body dualism. Yet patriarchal values themselves do not go away, with this conceptual severence of the mind from the body. Rather, patriarchal values themselves become more idealised, harder to pin down with any concrete formulation.
This enables patriarchy systems to survive and flourish. For patriarchy, as an institution, has effectively spiritualised itself. It has conceptually detached itself from anything concrete, tangible, or substantial in terms of action or behaviour. Instead, it has taken on an ethereal and transcendental identity — a value system that is located everywhere, but in no particular individual, like the antiquated idea of God, himself.
So it is that, exploiting this conceptual divorce from a need to prove his masculinity in terms of actual actions, a male these days may proclaim himself supremely masculine because he has (via historical means) inherited the rhetorical power of patriarchy to put the little woman in her place. His own character may be in concrete fact, no more actualisably masculine than the character of the one that he upbraids. He is after all, thoroughly “Modernised”, and no traditional patriarch himself. But he is, for all that, not above using the rhetoric of traditional patriarchy to put her in her place.
That right is still his, by virtue of his structurally defined “subject position”.
And she still has no right to appeal otherwise.