The Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek is one of the most engaging thinkers around, not only in terms of the ideas but in person. He's engaging even if you don't altogether agree with him. When he is in top gear he fulminates, gestures furiously with both hands and delivers with conviction. He gets his point across, sometimes playfully and subversively. Žižek is a true original.
When he offends people, it is often because he is misunderstood or because he isn't sufficiently respectful of sacred cultural cows. He was accused of being anti-Semitic because of remarks he made about Hitler that were misunderstood. The sensitivities of some get jarred by some of his more controversial remarks such as "politically correct cultural studies bullsh*t" and "most of the idiots that I know are academics"... currently doubling as the title of a Žižek interview in New Statesman.
Such criticisms aren't altogether off-target. The PC'ification of culture has made us overly sensitized. It's getting dodgy to joke in company with the irony impaired. A feminist blogger whose work I respect, posted a response to a Guardian piece that she took to be a serious article, whereas in actual fact it was a parody. To her credit she admitted that the humorous intent of the piece had completely escaped her.
Part of Žižek's appeal as a public thinker is his willingness to wade into controversial areas, to shock. He understands how we have been seduced by neoliberal capitalism, with even those on the left complicit with the system:
We all accept liberal democratic capitalism, even during this current pan-European disaster. We timidly ask, 'Oh, can we have a few more rights for minorities? A little more healthcare?' But nobody questions the frame. And that is the real triumph of ideology. [Guardian source]
He said the following in reference to the lack of a coordinated action plan on the left in the face of capitalism's reversals:
I am a communist, but I am not an idiot. What to me is tragic in all these events – that give old-fashioned leftists multiple orgasms – is where is any concrete principle of reorganisation? What is new? Because that is what is needed. But I do not see it. Liberal democratic capitalism is approaching its limit, and in its place we need large, coordinated social actions. Otherwise the future will resemble one of my favourite films, Terry Gilliam's Brazil. Not the old fascism, but a fascism of buffoons. I am not a catastrophist, but also I am not a Marxist who thinks history is on our side. No!
He was quoted in another article saying he thinks his fame has a lot to do with his "return to a more classical Marxism" which has long since fallen out of academic vogue. He also added "And I’m not afraid to play with dirty jokes!"
There are quite a few Žižek videos to choose from, some lacking in quality as far as the visuals go. I settled on this Al Jazeera interview in which he gives his views on changes in the global financial and political system.