In his seminar on the Ethics of Psychoanalysis, Lacan elaborates the distinction between two types of the contemporary intellectual, the fool and the knave:-Zizek, "The Plague of Fantasies"The 'fool' is an innocent, a simpleton, but truths issue from his mouth that are not simply tolerated, but adopted by virtue of the fact that this 'fool' is sometimes clothed in the insignia of the jester. And in my view it is a similar happy shadow, a similar fundamental 'foolery', that accounts for the importance of the left wing intellectual.In short, the right-wing intellectual is a knave, a conformist who refers to the mere existence of the given order as an argument for it, and mocks the Left on account of its' utopian plans, which necessarily lead to catastrophe; while the left-wing intellectual is a fool, a court jester who publically displays the lie of the existing order, but in a way which suspends the performative efficiency of his speech. Today, after the fall of Socialism, the knave is a neoconservative advocate of the free market who cruelly rejects all forms of social solidarity as a counterproductive sentimentalism, while the fool is a deconstructionist cultural critic who, by means of his ludic procedures destined to 'subvert' the existing order, actually serves as its' supplement.
And I contract this with the designation for that which the same tradition furnishes a strictly contemporary term, a term that is used in conjunction with the former, namely, 'knave'... He's not a cynic with the element of heroism implied by that attitude. He is, to be precise, what Stendhal called an 'unmitigated scoundrel'. That is to say, no more than your Mr. Everyman, but your Mr. everyman with greater strength of character.
Everyone knows that a certain way of presenting himself, which constitutes part of the ideology of the right-wing intellectual, is precisely to play the role of what he is in fact, namely, a 'knave'. In other words, he doesn't retreat from the consequences of what is called realism; that is, when required, he admits he's a crook.
What psychoanalysis can do to help us to break this vicious cycle of the fool-knave, is to lay bare its underlying libidinal economy - the libidinal profit, the 'surplus enjoyment', which sustains the two positions. Two vulgar jokes about testicles from Eastern Europe illustrate the fool-knave opposition perfectly. In the first one, a customer is sitting at a bar drinking whiskey; a monkey comes dancing along the counter, stops at his glass, washes his balls in it, and dances away. Badly shocked, the customer orders another glass of whiskey; the monkey strolls along again and does the same. Furious, the customer asks the bartender: 'Do you know why that monkey is washing his balls in my whiskey?' The bartender replies: 'I have no idea - ask the gypsy, he knows everything!' The guest turns to the gypsy, who is wandering around the bar, amusing guests with his violin and songs and asks him: 'Do you know why that monkey is washing his balls in my whiskey?' The gypsy answer calmly: 'Yes, sure!', and starts to sing a sad and melancholic song: 'Why does that monkey wash his balls in my whiskey, O why...' - the point, of course, is that gypsy musicians are supposed to know hundreds of songs and perform them at the customers request, so the gypsy has understood the customer's question as a request for a song about a monkey washing his balls in whiskey... The second joke takes place in medieval Russia, under the Tatar occupation, where a Tartar horseman encounters, on a lonely country road, a peasant with his young wife. The Tartar warrior not only wants to have sex with her, but - to add insult to injury, and to humiliate the peasant even further - he orders him to hold his (the Tartar's) balls gently in his hands, so that they will not get too dirty while he copulates with the wife on the dusty road. After the Tartar has finished with the sexual encounter and ridden away, the peasant starts to chuckle with pleasure; asked by his wife what is so funny about her being raped in front of her husband he answers: 'Don't you get it, my love? I duped him - I didn't really hold his balls, they're full of dust and dirt!"
So: if the conservative knave is not unlike the gypsy, since he also, in answer to a concrete complaint ('Why are things so horrible for us.../gays, blacks, women/?'), sings his tragic songs of eternal fate ('Why are things so bad for us people, O why?') - that is, he also, as it were, changes the tonality of the question from concrete complaint to abstract acceptance of the enigma of Fate - the satisfaction of the progressive fool, a 'social critic', is of the same kind as that of the Russian peasant, the typical hysterical satisfaction of snatching a little piece of Jouissance away from the Master. If the victim in the first joke were a fool, he would allow the monkey to wash his balls in the whiskey yet another time, but would add some dirt or sticky stuff to his glass beforehand, so that after the monkey's departure he would be able to claim triumphantly: 'I duped him! His balls are even dirtier now than before!'
...Each of the two positions, that of the fool and that of the knave, is thus sustained by its own kind of jouissance: the enjoyment of snatching back from the Master part of the jouissance he stole from us (in the case of the fool); the enjoyment which directly pertains to the subjects pain (in the case of the knave). What psychoanalysis can do to help the critique of ideology is precisely to clarify the status of this paradoxical jouissance as the payment that the exploited, the servant, receives for serving the Master. This jouissance, of course, always emerges within a certain phantasmatic field; the crucial precondition for breaking the chains of servitude is thus to 'traverse the fantasy' which structures our jouissance in a way which keeps us attached to the Master - makes us accept the framework of the social relationship of domination.