Slavoj Žižek, considered by many to be the most important Marxist theorist alive, found himself embroiled in an embarrassing plagiarism scandal — not only is he accused of lifting material from another source without attribution, but the source in question is the white nationalist publication American Renaissance.
The passages in question appear in a 2006 review essay Žižek published in the journal Critical Inquiry entitled, “A Plea for a Return to Différance (with a Minor Pro Domo Sua).” In the essay — which reviews Kevin McDonald’s The Culture of Critique: An Evolutionary Analysis of Jewish Involvement in Twentieth-Century Intellectual and Political Movements — Žižek wrote that McDonald “argues that certain twentieth-century intellectual movements led by Jews have changed European societies in fundamental ways and destroyed the confidence of Western man.”
In a review of the same book on American Renaissance‘s website, a Washington businessman who writes under the pen name “Stanley Hornbeck” wrote “that certain 20th century intellectual movements — largely established and led by Jews — have changed European societies in fundamental ways and destroyed the confidence of Western man.”
Instances of nearly identical language appear throughout the article, and on Saturday, Žižek responded to the charges in an email to Critical-Theory.
“With regard to the recent accusations about my plagiarism, here is what happened: when I was writing the text on Derrida which contains the problematic passages, a friend told me about Kevin Macdonald’s theories, and I asked him to send me a brief resume,” he wrote. “The friend [sent] it to me, assuring me that I can use it freely since it merely resumes another’s line of thought.”
Žižek further claimed that he couldn’t have known that the passages were lifted, or where they were lifted from, but that in the end it did not matter, because “[i]n no way can I…be accused of plagiarizing another’s line of thought, of stealing ideas,” because “the problematic passages are purely informative, a report on another’s theory for which I have no affinity whatsoever.”
["Slavoj Zizek in Liverpool" via andymiah on Flickr, Creative Commons license]
Scott Eric Kaufman is the proprietor of the AV Club's Internet Film School and, in addition to Raw Story, also writes for Lawyers, Guns & Money. He earned a Ph.D. in English Literature from the University of California, Irvine in 2008.
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