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Žižek, S. (2000). A Plea for Sincere Lies. Psychoanal. Dial., 10(2):271-275.

(2000). Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 10(2):271-275

A Plea for Sincere Lies

Slavoj Žižek, Ph.D.

President Clinton's impeachment troubles call to mind the old, premodern identification of the health (or, rather, virility) of the king's body with the flourishing of his country, as exemplified in the Fisher King legend, in which the king's wound and the devastation of the landscape (the “wasteland”) are strictly correlated. Here it is also that the public display of the president's potency seems to have an uplifting effect on the “state of the union.” So what is effectively going on here?

There is an obvious Freudian background of Clinton's recent troubles: It is as if Clinton's sexual escapades resuscitated Freud's scenario of the primal father (Urvater) who possessed and sexually exploited all the women in his tribe and who was subsequently murdered by the coalition of his sons. After the parricide, the brothers established the rule of law, the civilized order based on the mutual acceptance of ethical prohibitions. So, will the resolution of the U. S. presidential crisis also consist of the fraternal pact of reciprocity—a “bipartisan agreement” between Republicans and Democrats to stop prying into each other's private lives—and thus of the birth of a new “civilization” out of the impeachment of the master?

This interesting theory nonetheless gives rise to at least two questions. In contrast to the mythical primal father's being free to rape and enjoy all women, Clinton's sexual behavior with Monica Lewinsky was marked by the acceptance of a fundamental prohibition—no sexual intercourse proper, no phallic penetration, even (perhaps) no overt active gestures on Clinton's part.

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