Slavoj Zizek: I totally reject the simplistic idea proposed mostly by conservative critics but also by some hedonist liberals that we live in the hedonist era where basically you can enjoy in whatever way you want. Yes, but, at the same time, this enjoyment is strictly regulated, controlled, deprived of its, let’s call it passionate excess, like sex . . . yes, but safe sex.
What is the model of today’s hedonism? A couple of days ago flying here, I read some airline journal that you get, and it had a long text praising sex but in a way which was totally depressive. It said, “Make love as often as you can because it’s good for your blood circulation. It strengthens your heart.” Then it had even an obscene theory how if you kiss a lot, especially French kisses, it’s good to strengthen your jaws, your mouth, and so on. This is a terrifying vision.
The only true hedonists, I think, are today, two kinds: drug users and cigarette smokers. And you see how under total pressure they are. (To avoid the misunderstanding, I don't smoke. I say screw the companies, tobacco companies.) But nonetheless, there is something deeply symptomatic in our horror at the chain smoker, as if what bothers us is his/her enjoyment, as if you see there is a guy who has a singular passion and he’s ready to risk everything he has for pursuing that passion.
I find this rather nice, if you ask me.
Interviewed by Megan Erickson