- Rex Butler, "Slavoj Zizek: What is a Master-Signifier"
...in 1930s Germany the Nazi narrative of social reality won out over the socialist-revolutionary narrative not because it was better able to account for the 'crisis' in liberal-bourgeois ideology, but because it was able to impose the idea that there was a 'crisis' - a 'crisis' of which the socialist-revolutionary narrative was itself a part and which must ultimately be explained because of the 'Jewish conspiracy' (TS, 179).
The same 'arbitrariness' applies not only to reality but to those ideological systems by which we construct reality. That is, again following the analogy of Saussure's conception of language, the meaning of particular political or ideological terms is not fixed or unchanging but given only through their articulation with other terms. For example, the meaning of 'ecologism' is not the same in every ideological system but shifts between several possible meanings: there is feminist ecology, in which the exploitation of nature is seen as masculine; socialist ecology, in which the exploitation of nature is seen as the product of capitalism; conservative ecology, which urges us to get back to the cycles of nature; and even capitalist ecology, which sees the free market as the only solution to our current environmental problems (SO, 87). The same would apply to the terms 'feminism', 'socialism', 'conservatism' and 'capitalism' themselves. And ideology is the struggle over which of these elements not only is defined by its relationship with the others but also allows this relationship, is that medium through which they are organized. It is the struggle not only to be one of those free-floating ideological signifiers whose meaning is 'quilted' or determined by another but also that signifier which gives those others their meaning, to which they must ultimately be understood to be referring.