Zizek seems to be arguing that were we, the everyman, to fully comprehend the 'reality' of the exchange farce, "the effective act of exchange would no longer be possible" (p 20). That we cannot grasp its scope and depth is essential to its veil, he claims â€“ certainly echoing the likes of Jameson and Baudrilliard on the tactics of postmodern forces in ensuring our complacency. I have a few issues to take up with the politics of this claim.
I find at times Zizek falls into the same 'foolish masses, myself exempt' trap of which Adorno and Horkheimer are guilty in their culture industry critique. Pages 20 and 21 hold some key instances of this, for example: Zizek implicitly posits both himself and his intellectual crush Sohn-Rethel, outside of the experience of both seeing through the smoke screen of the exchange 'simulation' and engaging on a day-to-day level with money. What then, does it mean, for people such as Zizek, Sohn-Rethel, and sure, we'll include ourselves in this 'enlightened' company â€“ what does it mean for those of us who can manage to see through the 'strategies of the real' of the monetary exchange system? "If we come to 'know too much', to pierce the true functioning of social reality," argues Zizek, "the reality would dissolve itself" (p 21). But clearly Zizek get's the whole exchange-ain't-what-it-seems dealâ€¦yet he also made some cash off of writing this book. So despite having a pretty solid understanding the abstraction of value from hard money, Zizek's enlightened engagement with exchange-value hasn't managed to destroy the system, as he seems to have predicted for other money-users.
Here I would argue it is not so much that we may are not allowed to comprehend the tactics of the exchange-value system, but instead are not allowed to imagine resistance. It is much easier to live and work with the knowledge of 'the system' but to formulate your own subversive disruption, to function smoothly and capably as a postmodern subject that is the true tactical strongarm that we come against.