philosophy as not philosophy: para-ontology, hauntology, schizoanalysis

"Articulating the past historically does not mean recognizing it ‘the way it really was’. It means appropriating a memory as it flashes up in a moment of danger. Historical materialism wishes to hold fast that image of the past which unexpectedly appears to the historical subject in a moment of danger. The danger threatens both the content of the tradition and those who inherit it. For both, it is one and the same thing: the danger of becoming a tool of the ruling classes. Every age must strive anew to wrest tradition away from the conformism that is working to overpower it. The Messiah comes not only as the redeemer; he comes as the victor over the Antichrist. The only historian capable of fanning the spark of hope in the past is the one who is firmly convinced that even the dead will not be safe from the enemy if he is victorious. And this enemy has never ceased to be victorious."
- Walter Benjamin, Thesis VI

"The materialist doctrine concerning the changing of circumstances and upbringing forgets that circumstances are changed by men and that it is essential to educate the educator himself. This doctrine must, therefore, divide society into two parts, one of which is superior to society. The coincidence of the changing of circumstances and of human activity or self-changing can be conceived and rationally understood only as revolutionary practice."
- Karl Marx, Thesis III

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Abandon Blog!

This will be my last post at the Blogspot address. I'm moving Planomenology over to Wordpress for a variety of reasons, so you can find me there, complete with my first post on the new site, "Cloning Levi".

I've also added a great deal of additional goodies, besides retaining the posts from this site that don't embarrass me, so poke around. Most of the new pages are under construction, but you'll get the idea.

See you on the other side!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Object-ions: Cutting the Cord

Between Levi Bryant's fascinating posts on what he call's "The Ontic Principle", and Graham Harman's new blog "Object-Oriented Philosophy", I've found myself mulling over some objections. Now, I'm not yet familiar enough with either Harman or Latour, so perhaps these objections have already been anticipated, and if anyone can point me toward the relevant literature I'd appreciate it. But it strikes me that 'object-oriented philosophy' is missing something crucial. I touched upon this a bit in my last post, but there I was more concerned with sketching my own concepts, whereas here I'm a bit more critical.

First of all, while I have some sympathy for the urge to simply forget about correlationsim and pounce on the things themselves, I worry that this may be hasty and somewhat reckless. We can raise here a whole set of problems. Firstly, can we simply forget about Kant, who so famously demonstrated our consignment to the phenomenal world of access, and exlcusion from the in-itself? Secondly, who is to say that 'object' is an appropriate way of speaking about the in-itself? Are not objects the specific way things show up for us? If we subtract ourselves from the equation, what reason do we have to believe that objects will remain as objects?

Again, I'm not familiar enough with Harman to know how he would respond, but I am a bit confused by Levi's willingness to embrace objects as the form of the in-itself. This confusion stems from the high regard I have for his fantastic book on Deleuze, which, among other things, critiques any approach to the given that takes it as it is, rather than accounting for the genesis of that given. It seems to me that, from this position, we should arrive not at an object oriented philosophy any more than a subject oriented philosophy, but rather, at a genesis oriented philosophy, aiming to account for the givenness of the in-itself as objectal and accessible or inaccessible.

Now, Levi does lean in this direction with his explicit formulations, but I don't think he's yet made it altogther clear where he stands. For example, his ontic principle claims that "there is no difference that does not make a difference". He explicates this in conversation with Harman by saying that the object is the difference it produces in relation with objects, and moreover, that this differenciation is inexhaustible, the very inexhaustable being of the object in-itself. The object is nothing more than its potential to produce difference, its virtual power to differenciate. Harman, however, responds by claiming that there would still be something of the object even if it produced no difference, even if it was entirely without relation.

It is still unclear whether Levi thinks there is no object apart from its relations, that it is retroactively produced by its differenciation, or whether there is some substantial being of difference behind it; he has said of the virtual that it is nothing but relations amongst actualities, so the latter option seems unlikely. The option I assume he'd vie for, given his definition of the object as act-uality, is that the object is the difference produced in the wake of an event (in Deleuze's sense), and that this event is the only 'substantial' thing there (although substantial is the wrong term).

This ambiguity is clear in the very formulation of the ontic principle: there is no difference that does not make a difference. This is a negative existential statement, making a definite claim about what does not exist. So, what does exist would have to meet the following criteria: if it is a difference, it would have to make a difference. How do we read this? On the one hand, it could mean that a difference always produces another difference, and difference itself minimally occurs between two differences (this is not to be read as external or empirical difference, but the between of a mutual production, as the space between two connected singularities). On the other hand, it could mean that a difference, as a difference, produces itself as a difference. To be clear, this would mean that something different, by virtue of being different, produces the very difference that defines it as a being. In other words, the object-difference produces itself not only as a specific difference in relations with other objects, but, qua difference, as an existing object.

Both readings seem close to Levi's explication, but both have problems. With the first, we have the problem of an ulterior condition: if an object-difference, i.e. an existing being, by virtue of existing, produces other differences, which, again, by virtue of existing, produce other differences, we seem to be dangerously close to lapsing into the kind of transitive causality that Levi's Spinozism should avoid. If we are to avoid it, we must refer to an ulterior condition or immanent causality by which a difference produces itself as difference. Yet this would mean that, in producing itself, the ulterior condition is one of identity, in which the difference makes a non-difference, produces what already is - itself qua object-difference. Now I think these problems can be countered by reference to Deleuze's model of repetition and identity qua product, but this leads us to the second problem.

The second reading seems to refer to such an ulterior condition in which a difference is its own immanent cause, producing itself as an identity, as an identifiable object(-difference). Yet here we have the problem of treating a difference as object - the object-difference must preexist itself in some fashion, it must produce itself, which means it must exist before it exists. On the one hand, the difference must already be there to produce itself as object-difference. On the other hand, the object-difference must retroactively posit itself as its own cause, there at its own birth, so to speak. This temporal paradox will lead us back to a kind of transitive causation, unless we can provide a non-chronological account of production, an immanent production that occurs in being. Here, again, I think Deleuze can help answer these problems with his account of static genesis, and Levi surely knows this if anyone does.

Yet there is a third reading of the ontic principle that could undermine the apparent consistency of the Deleuzian approach, and I believe it is a reading that would fit Harman's own variant of object-orientation. If there does not exist a difference that does not make a difference, that nonetheless means that there could exist a non-difference that does not make a difference. Levi's ontic principle says nothing about the non-existence of non-differences (and here I suspend the strict identification of non-difference and identity). If Levi is attempting to provide a robust, and parsimonius, theory of object-differences, he nonetheless opens the gateway for a different kind of ontic being, an indifferent-object, and object that does not have any impact on other objects, about which we can say that 'it makes no difference whether or not it exists'. For Harman, I think, objects possess a kind of subterranean indifferent-objectality, a being to which other beings are indifferent, regardless of what kind of difference they may or may not make as object-differences.

If an indifferent-object does exist, we apparently have no way of knowing it - or, to generalize this statement for non-subject objects, objects are generally indifferent to the existence of indifferent-objects, which have no impact upon them. So we can really say nothing about indifferent-objects, except that we cannot say whether or not they exist. As far as I know, from the little I've gleaned thus far, Harman does want to claim not only that indifferent-objects exist, but that they are substantial and qualitatively unique. Levi, on the other hand, despite the ambiguity of his formulation, seems quite antithetical to the idea of indifferent-objects. I don't yet know how Harman justifies these claims, if they do accurately capture his position; but I also don't really know how Levi justifies his opposition, and I'm unclear as to how Deleuze's metaphysics leads to the conclusion of the non-existence of indifferent-objects. At best, it seems to me that both Levi and Deleuze would have to leave the question open and unanswerable, perhaps a poorly-stated problem. If so, maybe the ontic principle is itself poorly stated.

In any case, I have a theory regarding all this. Let's take it step by step. In my (potentially straw-man) description of Harman, we have a twofold structure of the object: there is the object-difference, as the difference produced between an object and other objects; and there is the indifferent-object, its subterranean, non-relational inner-being, the in-itself of the object. While this inner-being is indifferent from the perspective of other objects, it is nonetheless a substantial and fully existing sub-stratum.

In an explicitly structuralist variation of Levi's position, the object is nothing but the first level, the object-difference, and in-itself is the pure void of its place of inscription. The object does not exist apart from its differential relations with other objects, but we can nonetheless subtract the totality of these differences, and leave ourselves with a void place. This is also a somewhat Hegelian position, in that 'there is nothing behind the veil but what we put there'.

My position would be this, and it is still kind of sketchy, so bear with me: the in-itself of the object-difference, as that level of indifferent-objectality about whose existence we can only speculate, unable to decide one way or another, is precisely the negative mark left on the thing by its own genesis. It is the 'navel' of the thing (and we can take this in Freud's sense of the 'navel' of a dream-work). If I may refer to my last post, this indifference is precisely that of something that had to necessarily be so that the object-difference could contingently come-into-being, but that in no way necessitated that contingent outcome. And moreover, this mark is that of the lost contingency foreclosed by the necessary anterior condition. The indifferent-object is nothing less than the ancestral inexistence, that which could not have been so that what is could have been. The ancestral meets all the criteria of the indifferent-object: it does not make a difference, does not relate to or affect anything; and we can not decide on whether it it exists or non-exists, it is excluded from this very dyad. (Are my Laurellian leanings showing here?)

To conclude, I think any object-oriented philosophy must take into account the genesis of objects, which in turn refers to the paradoxical status of something that neither exists nor does not exist, but rather, is foreclosed by the ontic realm of actual objects.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Speculative Unrealism

The basic commonality that allows us to group such disparate lines of thought under the name of Speculative Realism is the assertion that, in short, there in fact exists something apart from our subjective access to its existence. As Graham Harman puts it, the move here is from subject-oriented philosophy toward an object-oriented philosophy. While there are likely very few philosophers who would openly identify with the term 'anti-realism' (a pejorative label primarily used by Analytic philosophers to describe their Continental counterparts), the fact is that philosophy has been generally enamored of our relationship to existence, caring little, if at all, about that which exists - and, at the limit, denying any such externality (anti-realism proper, what Meillassoux calls 'strong correlationism'). If there is a real shift going on, it is that of a speculative leap into the outside.

I want to make two points. First of all, I think there is a sense in which the new realism should learn from strong anti-realism's denial of a world outside the subject, or to be more precise, the subject's access to an outside (language). We of course must be wary of the implicit or explicit solipsism of language, if for no other reason, because it betrays a startling political attitude of indifference towards that which is invisible or unknown (or better, whose invisibility is invisible, or whose unknownness is unknown). Yet there is nonetheless a lesson here, one which only comes once we 'take the leap'. While we shouldn't privilege mediation to the detriment of the mediated-immediate, we should nonetheless not ignore the mediation altogether. Rather, the mediation we call subjectivity - our knowledge of, relations with, and actions upon objects - should rather be treated as itself an object, imbricated in the network of objects we call world. The subject, or subjectivity, is itself an object, on the same level as objects, and objectivity should be said univocally of subject and object. The subject is a subject-object. (This is obviously close to the neuro-philosophical position, but I'm not prepared to go any further in describing this relation.)

Second, besides the speculative shift towards object-orientation, there is nonetheless something 'unreal' and non-objectal that must not be neglected. There is a sense in which existing objects, and objectality in general (here including subject-objectality), always bear the mark of that which does not exist. Or rather, reality in general, including both existing objects and non-existing objects (fictions, illusions, potential objects, et cetera), bears with it a certain mark of the unreal, unrealizable. That which could not have existed. The unreal, as I refer to it, is the ancestral. And to specify where precisely my concept of ancestrality departs from Meillassoux, he uses the term to refer to that which is absolutely outside subjective-mediation - facts that are anterior to any access. Yet, if we are to apply his criterion of absolute contingency here, we come upon a strange temporal paradox - while for Meillassoux, everything that exists is necessarily contingent, ancestral facts are, qua ancestral, not contingent, they could not have been otherwise, they must be what they were.

There is, in short, a necessary existence: the past was necessarily what it was, even if it could have been otherwise at the time. The being-otherwise of the past is necessarily foreclosed, left out of reality. In other words, the contingency of the present is grounded upon the necessity of the past - the past in its becoming could have been otherwise, but as past, it can no longer be otherwise. Ancestrality, as I understand it, refers less to anterior - or exterior - facts than to the necessarily lost contingency they bear. It is the unreality of anterior contingency that is, for me, the crucial dimension of ancestrality, and indeed, objectality in general. Each object may be contingent, but with regards to its genesis, the past it carries with it, it bears the lost contingency of that past. While its own past could have been otherwise, it in fact could not have been otherwise so long as that object could be.

So, if we are to take the speculative leap, we must bear in mind the implications of the unreal, unrealized, and indeed lost contingency of what could not have been, so that what is can in fact be. Speculative Realism must also be a Speculative Unrealism.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Mladen Dolar on Psychoanalysis and Politics

In a recent lecture, Mladen Dolar offers an instructive meditation on the (non-)relation of psychoanalysis and politics. He claims that psychoanalysis institutes a social bond on the basis of the death drive, as that negativity inscribed in every positive social relation, ultimately the potential unbinding or untying of these relations, their precariousness. In this way, psychoanalysis prepares the site of politics, which amounts to the rejection or suspension of substantial, conventional sociality, the interruption of the positive order. Yet in doing so, psychoanalysis cannot go any further than a 'preparation' - it cannot engage in a political struggle, cannot prescribe political commitments, or in other words, it can promote the interruption of these bonds, but cannot offer anything positive to replace them.

By way of contrast, if psychoanalysis falls short of political intervention, by preparing the political site, only to leave the intervention up to an extra-psychoanalytic moment of decision, then politics (in the Badiouian sense) goes too far, covering over or erasing the moment of negativity of the political site through the institution of a new positive social order, qua evental fidelity. Dolar seems to offer a kind of solution to that great problematic core of Badiou's doctrine of the Event, as noted by, among others, Adrian Johnston (PDF) and Levi Bryant (PDF) - the question of a pre-evental preparation, or of the intra-situational conditions of an Event. Badiou seems stuck in fundamental ambiguity between the claim that Events are entirely incalculable and unaccountable in terms of the situation in which they arise, and the claim that Events don't 'come from nowhere', that they are grounded in and conditioned by the spectral traces of effaced events, inertly circulating within existing situations (what he calls 'evental recurrence').

Dolar seems to offer up psychoanalysis as precisely a praxis of preparation, of bringing about the Evental site qua condition. In this way, we can easily understand psychoanalytic symptoms as symptoms of failed, effaced, or missed Events (this is how, for example, Eric Santner understands symptoms); and the Lacanian subject positions can be read as 'compromise formations' resulting from the failure of Evental fidelity, the products of failed subjectivation. The twist here is that, for psychoanalysis, there can only be 'failed subjectivations', the subject as such is a failure of the symbolic mandate, it is a way of coping with the imposibility of fully 'becoming what one is'. So while Dolar seems to propose, albeit problematically, that psychoanalysis can fill the missing role in Badiou's theory of a 'pre-evental discipline of time', as Johnston puts it, there is nonetheless a fundamental incongruity. If psychoanalysis 'merely' prepared the site for a proper Evental/political subjectivation, then it would seemingly be complicit in betraying its own definitive insight - that subjectivation is inherently 'improper', and that the subject is ultimately the result of a failure; the subject is intrinsically symptomatic, and so the failure cannot be 'undone' without the subject also coming undone.

Dolar already offers the key to this deadlock, when he describes both psychoanalysis and Badiouian politics as circling around the political site of pure unbinding, the former falling short of it, the latter going too far beyond it. Can we envision a political praxis that seeks, like psychoanalysis, to open up this site, but rather than instrumentalizing this site as the means to some specific political end, makes the opening and holding-open of this site its explicit goal? This is something Zizek has been hinting at for quite some time, and the he, in his lecture following Dolar's, continues to foreshadow.

For anyone familiar with this blog, my answer should come as no surprise: the name of such a praxis is schizoanalysis. Dolar, in his lecture, does briefly touch upon Deleuze and Guattari, if only to implicitly suggest that Guattari's politicization of analytic practice, in subordinating the political site of 'unbinding' to explicit political goals, thereby misses the crucial dimension of analysis in the same way as Badiou. To put it in schizoanalytic terms, Dolar criticizes schizoanalysis as subordinating analytic deterritorialization to a corresponding political reterritorialization. Psychoanalysis, on the other hand, by remaining an eternal 'prelude' to politics, seeks to attain 'absolute detteritorialization', in a desire for 'pure difference'.

Yet such a criticism misses the point. Wherein lies the 'political' dimension of schizoanalysis, the sense in which it 'politicizes' Lacan? Schizoanalysis does not make analysis a means of promoting this or that political agenda, but rather makes the multiplication, promulgation, and perpetuation of analytic instances itself the political agenda. Rather than making politics a secondary moment, derived from the opening of the political site, schizoanalysis makes the opening/unbinding analytic operation as the political instance par excellence. If schizoanalysis is militant, it is in the spreading of analytic practice, installing analytic units wherever possible, opening political sites in every amenable situation. Schizoanalytic practice, then, involves a missionary ethics of promulgation, of 'spreading the good news', in the tradition of St. Paul. Paradoxically, schizoanalysis reproaches Lacanian psychoanalysis, not because it is too 'church-like', but because it isn't church-like enough, it is content to practice analysis where it is already comfortably accepted, rather than attempting to spread its word everywhere.

Where Dolar does explicitly criticize Deleuze and Guattari, he claims that their denunciation of Oedipus in the name of an unconscious that is already social misses the point. Oedipus names the fact that the formation of the ego already depends on social relations (those of the family, et cetera). But moreover, Oedipus is not the name of a conservative familialism - the Oedipus complex is that which ceaselessly undermines traditional paternal authority, disturbing the consistency of the familial triangle from within. This internal moment of negativity or inconsistency, moreover, attests to the social - or rather, political - nature of the unconscious, which already undermines familial and all other form of authority, rather than assuming or reinforcing them.

Dolar's criticism, however, itself seems to miss the point. Deleuze and Guattari clearly accept that castration and Oedipus are given facts of our current predicament. Their reproach is not that psychoanalysis accepts these coordinates, but rather, that it limits analytic practice to these coordinates, rather than generalizing itself. What does this mean? Oedipus and familialism, for Deleuze and Guattari, amount in the last instance to figures of the linguistic structure of the signifier. Their criticism is that psychoanalysis restricts its structuralism to that of the signifier, rather than generalizing itself to differential structures of different orders. Practically speaking, psychoanalysis takes the subject (of the signifier) for granted, as given in the analysand, whereas schizoanalysis seeks to analyze, within collective social arrangements, the emergence of instances of subjectivation at the intersection of several structural orders - physical-mechanical, biological-genetic, cognitive, linguistic, politico-economic, artistic, digital-technological, et cetera. On the specificities of this praxis, I can for now only hint.

If schizoanalysis is a political radicalization of psychoanalysis, this is not because it seeks to enlist analysis in the service of some overt political end, but rather, because it makes analysis itself - its promulgation and promotion - the only political end, with all other political projects and goals as themselves experimental figures within a greater analytic movement.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Zizek Responds to Kirsch

Zizek opens this recent lecture by discussing Kirsch's previously mentioned attack in the New Republic. It's a somewhat oblique response, segueing into a discussion of fascism/fundamentalism as a symptom of the liberal order's foreclosure of radical leftist politics. Nonetheless, it makes the point that Kirsch is not simply willfully misreading him, he is exemplifying a very clear ideological operation, one that seeks to confuse leftist and rightist radicalism as two species of the same 'totalitarian' tendency.

The lecture is quite good, the basic theme being a concrete engagement with Marx's critique of political economy, against the purely culture-critical use of Marx (a tendency of which Zizek admits being guilty). He seems to finally be working on some new material rather than just constantly rehashing and rearranging old themes, as he has been wont to do in lectures the past year or so at least.

As the superego says: Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Shameless Self Promotion

So I had to go to the hospital for a minor procedure, and then stayed up all night making music. I haven't done that in years, and it felt good. If anyone is interested, I posted the album here. It's called Taxonomies, mostly weird drone and ghost-rock (minus the rock). [Note: all the song titles were lifted from Agamben's The Open: Man and Animal, because I was reading it at the time.]

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

On Zizek and Consequences

The recent controversy in the blogosphere, provoked by this critical review of Zizek in The New Republic, has me somewhat confused. It seems that the unanimous response is that the review is unfair, highly impoverished, and generally poor academic work. Yet branching from this central position, we get two qualifications. The first is critical of Zizek, and claims that, while Kirsch's article is a failure, we should nonetheless be skeptical of Zizek's apparent romantic adoration for totalitarian violence. The second, exemplified by Larval Subjects here, defends Zizek against this criticism, claiming that he is thoroughly an ironist, opting to defend the 'worst' option of totalitarianism in order to force us to reevaluate the basic ideological assumptions structuring the choice between political alternatives. The critical rejoinder to this defense is that, while irony is all well and good, we must be wary of the potential consequences of this 'worse choice', as the alternative potentials of traversing the ideological fantasy could be horrific. (For more on this debate, see the comments on LS's post.)

I don't think either position gets it right. First of all, for all the out-of-hand rejection of Kirsch's article, everyone seems to nonetheless accept its basic point - that Zizek is an apologist for, or even an advocate of, totalitarian violence. Yet anyone with a more than superficial familiarity with Zizek's work should know that, despite (or rather, because of) his championing of ruthless political Terror, and his praise of figures like Robespierre, Lenin, and Mao, his analyses of the latter are thoroughly critical. He does not advocate what they did, but attempts to show 1) what potentials still live on in the legacy of these figures, and 2) how these potentials were betrayed by the admittedly catastrophic outcomes of their actualization.

This criticism is captured in his seemingly tasteless claim that, while Hitler was a monster, and the genocide he presided over was one of the most disgusting episodes in human history, the problem with Hitler's 'revolution' was that it was not violent enough, in that it failed to undermine the basic symbolic coordinates of the situation. The shoah was hence an impotent passage à l'acte, a hideous acting out that only served to sustain the status quo. His praise of figures like Stalin and Mao, despite similar crimes on their parts, roots from the fact that they headed abortive, but nonetheless real and important, attempts to intervene at the level of the symbolic coordinates of the possible. The totalitarian repression and purges they carried out were symptoms of the failure of these attempts. The violent terror Zizek is advocating has nothing to do with these disgusting displays, and in fact, they would be proof that a Zizekian politics has failed to come to fruition.

The basic tenet of Zizek's conception of revolutionary politics is that, if a movement has to resort to murder, genocide, torture, and the like, then it's not a revolution at all. The revolutionary shift must occur at the level of symbolic foundations, such that enemies of the revolution wouldn't have to be forcibly silenced, as they would be fundamentally excluded from the field of discourse, such that their words and actions would have no more weight than those of a schizophrenic babbling to himself about conspiracies. In other words, the violence Zizek advocates is a kind of symbolic violence, and any resort to what he calls subjective violence, literally, injury and abuse sustained by actual persons, would be a sure sign of the failure of the former.

Does this amount to a prohibition of violent tactics altogether? Doesn't this conflict with his valorization of, for example, the looting and burning of supermarkets by the favela-dwellers in Rio de Janeiro as an instance of 'divine violence'? Here we must be clear: while we cannot rule out violence altogether, it should not be included in our tactical repertoire, but should be a desperate last resort, in the same way that a pro-choice advocate of sex-ed would not include abortion amongst the litany of birth control methods, but would reserve it for desperate situations. As for the example of Rio, or the Revolutionary Terror of 1792-4, how do we reconcile these with this logic?

The answer lies in the conception of divine violence as a break with the cycle of mythic violence, in which the revolutionary dissolution of an existing politico-legal structure is reduced to a means of establishing another to replace it. Yet if such a dissolution does not conclude with the institution of a new positive social order, how could it be more than a purely negative gesture? What is the future of a divine violence? In principle, the answer is that the very organization and mobilization that produces this dissolution must already be in-itself a new social bond, it must be enough to sustain society, as the 'embodiment of negativity'. In this way, the dissolution is not instrumentalized, reduced to being a means to some external end - the means should be enough.

The trouble with Zizek's examples is that they do not produce such results: they either collapse back into the previous order, as in Rio, or succeed in establishing a new Law, as in the French Revolution; or, where they do succeed, it is only temporary, as with the Shanghai Commune. Yet Zizek's point is more nuanced than such positivism. His point is that, even where divine violence is reduced to mythic violence, as a 'vanishing mediator', there is nonetheless a spectral remainder, a virtual element irreducible to its actualization - Kant calls it 'enthusiasm', Robespierre calls it 'generous ambition'. Moreover, it is the redemption of this spectral remainder that must serve, for Zizek, as the basis of any social bond that would escape the cycle of mythic violence. Here, Zizek is thoroughly Benjaminian. [Narcissistic side-note: if you've been following my blog, you'll recognize in this 'spectral remainder' precisely what I've been referring to as the 'ancestral dimension'.]

When Zizek does praise Terror, as in the cases of the French, October, or Cultural Revolutions, he is quite clear that his praise is aimed not at massive slaughter and repression, but rather, at the attempts at inventing new modes of sociality, new habits and rituals, to replace what had to be done with. He makes this point quite clearly in his recent work, In Defense of Lost Causes:
It is at this level that one should search for the decisive moment of a revolutionary process: say, in the case of the October Revolution, not the explosion of 1917-18, not even the civil war that followed, but the intense experimentation of the early 1920s, the (desperate, often ridiculous) attempts to invent new rituals of daily life: how to replace the pre-revolutionary marriage and funeral rites? How to organize the most commonplace interaction in a factory, in an apartment block? It is at this level of what, as opposed to the "abstract terror" of the "great" political revolution, one is tempted to call the "concrete terror" of imposing a new order on quotidian reality, that the Jacobins and both the Soviet and the Chinese revolutions ultimately failed - not for lack of attempts in this direction, for sure. The Jacobins were at their best not in the theatrics of Terror, but in the utopian explosions of political imagination apropos the reorganization of the everyday: everything was there, proposed in the course of the frantic activity condensed into a couple of years, from the self-organization of women to communal homes in which the old were to be able to spend their last years in peace and dignity. (Lost Causes, p 174-5)
When Zizek praises these revolutions, and champions political terror, he is not referring to the 'abstract terror' of mass murder and totalitarian repression, but to the concrete terror of the reorganization of basic social relations. This, he claims, is the ultimate lesson of the Cultural Revolution:
Although a failure, the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (GPCR) was unique in attacking the key point: not just the takeover of state power, but the new economic organization and reorganization of daily life. Its failure was precisely the failure to create a new form of everyday life... (LC, p 205)
Despite his recent claims that the Left should not shy away from appropriating State power, his point is that such actions must have a concrete transformation of the social bond as their 'base'. This is, consequently, how we can reconcile his notion of 'Bartleby politics' with the seemingly contradictory valorization of the 'great revolutions': withdrawal from activity means we must fundamentally reorganize the social substance of habits and rituals, organizations of jouissance, if active intervention is to be more than impotent acting out, or some custodial 'cleaning up after' capitalist excess.

Concrete terror, then, means immersing ourselves in a total experimentation with our social organization and habits. This follows from Zizek's definition of terror, which is basically that 'there is no going back':
Terror is this 'self-related' or 'self-negated' fear: it is what fear changes into once we accept that there is no way back, that what we are afraid to lose, what is threatened by what we are afraid of (nature, the life-world, the symbolic substance of our community...) has always-already been lost. (LC, p 434)
Bartleby politics is thus not simply abstinence, not simply doing nothing, it is rather a matter of being nothing, of coming to embody this radical loss of ground or symbolic support, of becoming that intolerable, unproductive kernel inappropriable by Capital.

This reading of Zizek can also help shed light on the apparent hypocrisy of his advocacy of revolutionary politics, despite his complacent position as a well-off, jet-setting bourgeois intellectual. While I'm not denying this hypocrisy, I think we should recognize in it what he has referred to as a 'sincere hypocrisy': he is obliged to work explicitly in cultural theory and philosophy because intervention in the symbolic substance of culture must precede and 'ground' any potent political action. Here, I have great affinity with Levi Bryant's reading of Zizek as ironist, in his paper "Symptomal Knots and Evental Ruptures", and over at Larval Subjects. Moreover, despite his immense disdain for Guattari's influence on Deleuze, this is why I see Zizek as an important influence on schizoanalysis, as I understand it. Reorganization of social relations should not be imposed after the fact by a political regime, but must be the base and support preceding any mass political mobilization.