Overidentification is a psychoanalytic term and potential political strategy commonly attributed to the philosopher Slavoj Zizek in his book, The Plague of Fantasies.
Zizek says that in order to sustain themselves, dominant ideologies present benign images to the public that conceal their damaging nature. For example, capitalism is presented as ‘the American Dream’, a system that allows any individual to advance, despite the fact that it leaves many excluded from formal systems of power. Likewise, real fascists do not behave like fascists. Repressive governments paint themselves as open and tolerant in order to keep public support and to create the mass-illusion that their politics serves the people. Overidentification is a method of pushing the system to its extremes in order to expose the concealed undersides of power.
Here, Zizek cites the Slovenian punk band “Laibach”. At face value, Laibach appears fascist. Its lead singer frequently poses as Mussolini, the band dresses in military uniforms and read from their ‘manifesto’. Thus, they identify with fascism to an extreme degree – what Zizek calls “over-identification”. Laibach appears so extreme that their elicit a repulsed reaction from the public – people are ‘put back’ by how repressive they appear to be. As such, Laibach exposes the hidden flip-side of fascism, its true nature. They show the force in its most visible, brutal, and apparent, enabling it to be resisted.
In debates, many Affirmative teams will claim that their plan is part of a strategy of over-identification, snapping the public out of the belief that the system is benign. Some negatives similarly advocate over-identification as their critique alternative.
Entry by Casey Harrigan 6/18/07