(Gerhard Richter, Abstract Painting (Grey) (880-3), 2002
In her essay “Bad Jews, Authentic Jews, Figural Jews” for the volume Judaism, Liberalism, and Political Theology, Sarah Hammerschlag quotes Slavoj Zizek who writes about “the Jews.” If Jews, according to Zizek, are not to be “privileged as an empirical group,” (i.e. “inaccessible to other” and “ultimately of no relevance to them”), then they are to be conceived as a contingent bearer of a universal structure, which for Zizek implies the “dangerous conclusion” that isolate and assert this formal universal structure that one has to “eliminate, erase, the ‘empirical’ Jews” (cited on p.227).
Sarah claims that Zizek along with Badiou “misses” the point that the universal and the particular are more stubbornly imbricated. But I don’t think that’s true. They don’t “miss” the point. They reject it. Viewed one way, there should, in fact, be no inherent reason why one cannot suppress or erase a figure. If that’s an aesthetic choice, then it’s not really a political point of view anymore, no matter if it pretends to be one. What’s one left with then? Without any bright color, the “remainder” that’s left is a dull grey.
This seems like a bad choice for Jews and Judaism, either remote privilege and human irrelevance or elimination. Micro-antisemitic and micro-Nazi, the logic is totalitarian, not democratic. As an aesthetic and political choice, the bourgeois form of “representation” will have had more to offer Jews, Judaism, and democratic culture than does the final-solution alternative offered by Zizek.