In Less Than Nothing, the pinnacle publication of a distinguished career, Slavoj i ek argues that it is imperative that we not simply return to Hegel but that we repeat and exceed his triumphs, overcoming his limitations by being even more ...
Book synopsis: Philosopher, cultural critic, and agent provocateur Slavoj Žižek constructs a fascinating new framework to look at the forces of violence in our world. Using history, philosophy, books, movies, Lacanian psychiatry, and jokes, Slavoj Žižek examines the ways we perceive and misperceive violence. Drawing from his unique cultural vision, Žižek brings new light to the Paris riots of 2005; he questions the permissiveness of violence in philanthropy; in daring terms, he reflects on the powerful image and determination of contemporary (...) terrorists. Violence, Žižek states, takes three forms--subjective, objective, and systemic --and often one form of violence blunts our ability to see the others, raising complicated questions. Does the advent of capitalism and, indeed, civilization cause more violence than it prevents? Is there violence in the simple idea of "the neighbour"? And could the appropriate form of action against violence today simply be to contemplate, to think? Beginning with these and other equally contemplative questions, Žižek discusses the inherent violence of globalization, capitalism, fundamentalism, and language, in a work that will confirm his standing as one of our most erudite and incendiary modern thinkers. (shrink)
Book synopsis: There should no longer be any doubt: global capitalism is fast approaching its terminal crisis. Slavoj Žižek has identified the four horsemen of this coming apocalypse: the worldwide ecological crisis; imbalances within the economic system; the biogenetic revolution; and exploding social divisions and ruptures. But, he asks, if the end of capitalism seems to many like the end of the world, how is it possible for Western society to face up to the end times? In a major new (...) analysis of our global situation, Žižek argues that our collective responses to economic Armageddon correspond to the stages of grief: ideological denial, explosions of anger and attempts at bargaining, followed by depression and withdrawal. For this edition, Žižek has written a long afterword that leaves almost no subject untouched, from WikiLeaks to the nature of the Chinese Communist Party. (shrink)
Book synopsis: In this combative major new work, philosophical sharpshooter Slavoj Zizek looks for the kernel of truth in the totalitarian politics of the past. Examining Heidegger's seduction by fascism and Foucault's flirtation with the Iranian Revolution, he suggests that these were the 'right steps in the wrong direction.' On the revolutionary terror of Robespierre, Mao and the bolsheviks, Zizek argues that while these struggles ended in historic failure and horror, there was a valuable core of idealism lost beneath the (...) bloodshed. A redemptive vision has been obscured by the soft, decentralized politics of the liberal-democratic consensus. Faced with the coming ecological crisis, Zizekk argues the case for revolutionary terror and the dictatorship of the proletariat. A return to past ideals is needed despite the risks. In the words of Samuel Beckett: 'Try again. Fail again. Fail better.'. (shrink)
In the space of barely more than five years, with the publication of four pathbreaking books, Slavoj Žižek has earned the reputation of being one of the most arresting, insightful, and scandalous thinkers in recent memory. Perhaps more than any other single author, his writings have constituted the most compelling evidence available for recognizing Jacques Lacan as the preemient philosopher of our time. In _Tarrying with the Negative_, Žižek challenges the contemporary critique of ideology, and in doing so opens the (...) way for a new understanding of social conflict, particularly the recent outbursts of nationalism and ethnic struggle. Are we, Žižek asks, confined to a postmodern universe in which truth is reduced to the contingent effect of various discursive practices and where our subjectivity is dispersed through a multitude of ideological positions? _No_ is his answer, and the way out is a return to philosophy. This revisit to German Idealism allows Žižek to recast the critique of ideology as a tool for disclosing the dynamic of our society, a crucial aspect of which is the debate over nationalism, particularly as it has developed in the Balkans—Žižek's home. He brings the debate over nationalism into the sphere of contemporary cultural politics, breaking the impasse centered on nationalisms simultaneously fascistic and anticolonial aspirations. Provocatively, Žižek argues that what drives nationalistic and ethnic antagonism is a collectively driven refusal of our own enjoyment. Using examples from popular culture and high theory to illuminate each other—opera, film noir, capitalist universalism, religious and ethnic fundamentalism—this work testifies to the fact that, far more radically than the postmodern sophists, Kant and Hegel are our contemporaries. (shrink)
In his formidable Transcritique: On Kant and Marx, Kojin Karatani endeavors to assert the critical potential of an in-between stance which he calls the “parallaxview”: when confronted with an antinomic stance, in the precise Kantian sense of the term, one should renounce all attempts to reduce one aspect to the other. One should, on the contrary, assert antinomy as irreducible, and conceive the point of radical critique not as a certain determinate position as opposed to another position, but as the (...) irreducible gap between the positions themselves, the purely structural interstice between them. Kant’s stance is thus “to see things neither from his own viewpoint, nor from the viewpoint of others, but to face the reality that is exposed through difference.” What Kant does is to change the very terms of the debate; his solution—the transcendental turn—is unique in that it first rejects any ontological closure: it recognizes a certain fundamental and irreducible limitation of the human condition, which is why the two poles, rational and sensual, active and passive, cannot ever be fully mediated—reconciled. And, according to Karatani, Marx, in his “critique of political economy,” when faced with the opposition of the “classical” political economy and the neo-classic reduction of value to a purely relational entity without substance, accomplished exactly the same breakthrough toward the “parallax” view: he treatedthis opposition as a Kantian antinomy, i.e., value has to originate outside circulation, in production, and in circulation. (shrink)
In his formidable Transcritique: On Kant and Marx, Kojin Karatani endeavors to assert the critical potential of an in-between stance which he calls the “parallaxview”: when confronted with an antinomic stance, in the precise Kantian sense of the term, one should renounce all attempts to reduce one aspect to the other. One should, on the contrary, assert antinomy as irreducible, and conceive the point of radical critique not as a certain determinate position as opposed to another position, but as the (...) irreducible gap between the positions themselves, the purely structural interstice between them. Kant’s stance is thus “to see things neither from his own viewpoint, nor from the viewpoint of others, but to face the reality that is exposed through difference (parallax).” What Kant does is to change the very terms of the debate; his solution—the transcendental turn—is unique in that it first rejects any ontological closure: it recognizes a certain fundamental and irreducible limitation (“finitude”) of the human condition, which is why the two poles, rational and sensual, active and passive, cannot ever be fully mediated—reconciled. And, according to Karatani, Marx, in his “critique of political economy,” when faced with the opposition of the “classical” political economy and the neo-classic reduction of value to a purely relational entity without substance, accomplished exactly the same breakthrough toward the “parallax” view: he treatedthis opposition as a Kantian antinomy, i.e., value has to originate outside circulation, in production, and in circulation. (shrink)
What is the basis of belief in an era when globalization, multiculturalism and big business are the new religion? Slavoj Zizek, renowned philosopher and irrepressible cultural critic takes on all comers in this compelling and breathless new book. From 'cyberspace reason' to the paradox that is 'Western Buddhism', _On Belief_ gets behind the contours of the way we normally think about belief, in particular Judaism and Christianity. Holding up the so-called authenticity of religious belief to critical light, Zizek draws on (...) psychoanalysis, film and philosophy to reveal in startling fashion that nothing could be worse for believers than their beliefs turning out to be true. (shrink)
Whenever the membranes of the egg in which the foetus emerges on its way to becoming a new-born are broken, imagine for a moment that something flies off, and that one can do it with an egg as easily as with a man, namely the hommelette, or the lamella. The lamella is something extra-flat, which moves like the amoeba. It is just a little more complicated. But it goes everywhere. And as it is something - I will tell you shortly (...) why - that is related to what the sexed being loses in sexuality, it is, like the amoeba in relation to sexed beings, immortal - because it survives any division, and scissiparous intervention. And it can turn around. Well! This is not very reassuring. But suppose it comes and envelopes your face while you are quietly asleep... I can't see how we would not join battle with a being capable of these properties. But it would not be a very convenient battle. This lamella, this organ, whose characteristic is not to exist, but which is nevertheless an organ - I can give you more details as to its zoological place - is the libido. It is the libido, qua pure life instinct, that is to say, immortal life, irrepressible life, life that has need of no organ, simplified, indestructible life. It is precisely what is subtracted from the living being by virtue of the fact that it is subject to the cycle of sexed reproduction. And it is of this that all the forms of the objet a that can be enumerated are the representatives, the equivalents. Every word has a weight here, in this deceivingly poetic description of the mythic creature called by Lacan "lamella". Lacan imagines lamella as a version of what Freud called "partial object": a weird organ which is magically autonomized, surviving without a body whose organ it should have been, like a hand that wonders around alone in early Surrealist films, or like the smile in Alice in Wonderland that persists alone, even when the Cheshire cat's body is no longer present: "'All right', said the Cat; and this time it vanished quite slowly, beginning with the end of the tail, and ending with the grin, which remained some time after the rest of it had gone. 'Well! I've often seen a cat without a grin', thought Alice; 'but a grin without a cat! It's the most curious thing I ever saw in my life!'" The lamella is an entity of pure surface, without the density of a substance, an infinitely plastic object that can not only incessantly change its form, but can even transpose itself from one to another medium: imagine a "something" that is first heard as a shrilling sound, and then pops up as a monstrously distorted body. A lamella is indivisible, indestructible, and immortal - more precisely, undead in the sense this term has in horror fiction: not the sublime spiritual immortality, but the obscene immortality of the "living dead" which, after every annihilation, re-composes themselves and clumsily goes on. As Lacan puts it in his terms, lamella does not exist, it insists: it is unreal, an entity of pure semblance, a multiplicity of appearances which seem to envelop a central void - its status is purely fantasmatic. This blind indestructible insistence of the libido is what Freud called "death drive," and one should bear in mind that "death drive" is, paradoxically, the Freudian name for its very opposite, for the way immortality appears within psychoanalysis: for an uncanny excess of life, for an "undead" urge which persist beyond the cycle of life and death, of generation and corruption. This is why Freud equates death drive with the so-called "compulsion-to-repeat," an uncanny urge to repeat painful past experiences which seems to outgrow the natural limitations of the organism affected by it and to insist even beyond the organism's death - again, like the living dead in a horror film who just go on. This excess inscribes itself into the human body in the guise of a wound which makes the subject "undead," depriving him of the capacity to die : when this wound is healed, the hero can die in peace. (shrink)
Responding to Alain Badiou’s ‘communist hypothesis’, the leading political philosophers of the Left convened in London in 2009 to take part in a landmark conference to discuss the perpetual, persistent notion that, in a truly emancipated society, all things should be owned in common. This volume brings together their discussions on the philosophical and political import of the communist idea, highlighting both its continuing significance and the need to reconfigure the concept within a world marked by havoc and crisis.
Presents collected writings of Slavoj Zizek - one of the world's leading contemporary cultural commentators. Drawing upon a range of his prolific output, the articles here cover psychoanalysis, philosophy and popular culture.
In _Civilization and Its Discontents_, Freud made abundantly clear what he thought about the biblical injunction, first articulated in Leviticus 19:18 and then elaborated in Christian teachings, to love one's neighbor as oneself. "Let us adopt a naive attitude towards it," he proposed, "as though we were hearing it for the first time; we shall be unable then to suppress a feeling of surprise and bewilderment." After the horrors of World War II, the Holocaust, Stalinism, and Yugoslavia, Leviticus 19:18 seems (...) even less conceivable—but all the more urgent now—than Freud imagined. In _The Neighbor_, three of the most significant intellectuals working in psychoanalysis and critical theory collaborate to show how this problem of neighbor-love opens questions that are fundamental to ethical inquiry and that suggest a new theological configuration of political theory. Their three extended essays explore today's central historical problem: the persistence of the theological in the political. In "Towards a Political Theology of the Neighbor," Kenneth Reinhard supplements Carl Schmitt's political theology of the enemy and friend with a political theology of the neighbor based in psychoanalysis. In "Miracles Happen," Eric L. Santner extends the book's exploration of neighbor-love through a bracing reassessment of Benjamin and Rosenzweig. And in an impassioned plea for ethical violence, Slavoj Žižek's "Neighbors and Other Monsters" reconsiders the idea of excess to rehabilitate a positive sense of the inhuman and challenge the influence of Levinas on contemporary ethical thought. A rich and suggestive account of the interplay between love and hate, self and other, personal and political, _The Neighbor_ will prove to be a touchstone across the humanities and a crucial text for understanding the persistence of political theology in secular modernity. (shrink)
In his wonderful short text ‘Notes of a Publicist’—written in February 1922 when the Bolsheviks, after winning the Civil War against all odds, had to retreat into the New Economic Policy of allowing a much wider scope to the market economy and private property—Lenin uses the analogy of a climber who must backtrack from his first attempt to reach a new mountain peak to describe what retreat means in a revolutionary process, and how it can be done without opportunistically betraying (...) the cause: Let us picture to ourselves a man ascending a very high, steep and hitherto unexplored mountain. Let us assume that he has overcome unprecedented difficulties and dangers and has succeeded in reaching a much higher point than any of his predecessors, but still has not reached the summit. He finds himself in a position where it is not only difficult and dangerous to proceed in the direction and along the path he has chosen, but positively impossible. In these circumstances, Lenin writes: He is forced to turn back, descend, seek another path, longer, perhaps, but one that will enable him to reach the summit. The descent from the height that no one before him has reached proves, perhaps, to be more dangerous and difficult for our imaginary traveller than the ascent—it is easier to slip; it is not so easy to choose a foothold; there is not that exhilaration that one feels in going upwards, straight to the goal, etc. One has to tie a rope round oneself, spend hours with an alpenstock to cut footholds or a projection to which the rope could be tied firmly; one has to move at a snail’s pace, and move downwards, descend, away from the goal; and one does not know where this extremely dangerous and painful descent will end, or whether there is a fairly safe detour by which one can ascend more boldly, more quickly and more directly to the summit. It would only be natural for a climber who found himself in such a position to have ‘moments of despondency’. In all probability these moments would be more numerous and harder to bear if he could hear the voices of those below, who ‘through a telescope and from a safe distance, are watching his dangerous descent’: ‘The voices from below ring with malicious joy. They do not conceal it; they chuckle gleefully and shout: “He’ll fall in a minute! Serve him right, the lunatic!”.’ Others try to conceal their malicious glee, behaving ‘more like Judas Golovlyov’, the notoriously hypocritical landowner in Saltykov-Shchedrin’s novel, The Golovlyov Family: They moan and raise their eyes to heaven in sorrow, as if to say: ‘It grieves us sorely to see our fears justified! But did not we, who have spent all our lives working out a judicious plan for scaling this mountain, demand that the ascent be postponed until our plan was complete? And if we so vehemently protested against taking this path, which this lunatic is now abandoning, if we so fervently censured this lunatic and warned everybody against imitating and helping him, we did so entirely because of our devotion to the great plan to scale this mountain, and in order to prevent this great plan from being generally discredited!’ Happily, Lenin continues, our imaginary traveller cannot hear the voices of these people who are ‘true friends’ of the idea of ascent; if he did, ‘they would probably nauseate him’—‘And nausea, it is said, does not help one to keep a clear head and a firm step, particularly at high altitudes.’ Of course, a metaphor does not amount to proof: ‘every analogy is lame’. (shrink)
There are not only true or false solutions, there are also false questions. The task of philosophy is not to provide answers or solutions, but to submit to critical analysis the questions themselves, to make us see how the very way we perceive a problem is an obstacle to its solution. This holds especially for today’s public debates on ecological threats, on lack of faith, on democracy and the “war on terror”, in which the “unknown knowns”, the silent presuppositions we (...) are not aware of, determine our acts. (shrink)
"Is it meaningful to call oneself a democrat? And if so, how do you interpret the word?" -/- In responding to this question, eight iconoclastic thinkers prove the rich potential of democracy, along with its critical weaknesses, and reconceive the practice to accommodate new political and cultural realities. Giorgio Agamben traces the tense history of constitutions and their coexistence with various governments. Alain Badiou contrasts current democratic practice with democratic communism. Daniel Bensaid ponders the institutionalization of democracy, while Wendy Brown (...) discusses the democratization of society under neoliberalism. Jean-Luc Nancy measures the difference between democracy as a form of rule and as a human end, and Jacques Rancière highlights its egalitarian nature. Kristin Ross identifies hierarchical relationships within democratic practice, and Slavoj Zizek complicates the distinction between those who desire to own the state and those who wish to do without it. -/- Concentrating on the classical roots of democracy and its changing meaning over time and within different contexts, these essays uniquely defend what is left of the left-wing tradition after the fall of Soviet communism. They confront disincentives to active democratic participation that have caused voter turnout to decline in western countries, and they address electoral indifference by invoking and reviving the tradition of citizen involvement. Passionately written and theoretically rich, this collection speaks to all facets of modern political and democratic debate. (shrink)
Marco Cicala, a Leftist Italian journalist, told me about his recent weird experience: when, in an article, he once used the word "capitalism," the editor asked him if the use of this term is really necessary - could he not replace it by a synonymous one, like "economy"? What better proof of the total triumph of capitalism than the virtual disappearance of the very term in the last 2 or 3 decades? No one, with the exception of a few allegedly (...) archaic Marxists, refers to capitalism any longer. The term was simply struck from the vocabulary of politicians, trade unionists, writers and journalists - even of social scientists... But what about the upsurge of the anti-globalization movement in the last years? Does it not clearly contradict this diagnostic? No: a close look quickly shows how this movement also succumbs to "the temptation to transform a critique of capitalism itself into a critique of 'imperialism'." In this way, when one talks about "globalization and its agents," the enemy is externalized. From this perspective, where the main task today is to fight "the American empire," any ally is good if it is anti-American, and so the unbridled Chinese "Communist" capitalism, violent Islamic anti-modernists, as well as the obscene Lukashenko regime in Belarus may appear as progressive anti-globalist comrades-in-arms... What we have here is thus another version of the ill-famed notion of "alternate modernity": instead of the critique of capitalism as such, of confronting its basic mechanism, we get the critique of the imperialist "excess," with the notion of mobilizing capitalist mechanisms within another, more "progressive," frame. (shrink)
The conclusion drawn was that this failure was due to underestimating the depth of Western Christian spiritual foundations, so the accent of subversive activity shifted from politico-economic struggle to "cultural revolution," to the patient intellectual-cultural work of undermining national pride, family, religion, and spiritual commitments, and the spirit of sacrifice for one's country was dismissed as involving the "authoritarian personality"; marital fidelity was supposed to express pathological sexual repression; following Benjamin's motto on how every document of culture is a document (...) of barbarism, the highest achievements of Western culture were denounced for concealing the practices of racism and genocide, and so on. MacDonald devotes many pages to The Authoritarian Personality, a collective project coordinated by Adorno, the purpose of which was, for MacDonald, to make every group affiliation sound as if it were a sign of mental disorder; everything, from patriotism to religion to family-and race-loyally, is disqualified as a sign of a dangerous and defective "authoritarian personality." In addition to ridiculing patriotism and racial identity, the Frankfurt school glorified promiscuity and bohemian poverty: "Certainly many of the central attitudes of the largely successful 1960s countercultural revolution find expression in The Authoritarian Personality, including idealizing rebellion against parents, low-investment sexual relationships, and scorn for upward social mobility, social status, family pride, the Christian religion, and patriotism". (shrink)
If the radical moment of the inauguration of modern philosophy is the rise of the Cartesian cogito, where are we today with regard to cogito? Are we really entering a post-Cartesian era, or is it that only now our unique historical constellation enables us to discern all the consequences of the cogito? The paper deals extensively with these questions on topics introduced by Catherine Malabou's Les nouveaux blessés (The New Wounded). Malabou proposed a critical reformulation of psychoanalysis, her starting point (...) being external shocks, brutal unexpected encounters or intrusions, due their properly traumatic impact on the way they touch a pre-existing traumatic "psychic reality". Malabou's basic reproach to Freud is that, when confronted with such cases, he succumbs to the temptation of meaning: he is not ready to accept the direct destructive efficiency of external shocks – they destroy the psyche of the victim (or, at least, wound it in an unredeemable way) without resonating in any inner traumatic truth. These cases of post-traumatic subjects show that if we take the "stories they are telling itself about itself," the narrative symbolic texture, away, something (or, rather nothing, a form of nothing) remains, which is nothing but the pure subject of the death drive. This is an idea of cogito at its purest, its "degree zero," and this is also the reason why today we so adamantly resist the spectre of cogito. (shrink)
Two topics determine today's liberal tolerant attitude towards Others: the respect of Otherness and the obsessive fear of harassment: the Other is OK insofar as its presence is not intrusive, insofar as the Other is not really Other. The central human right in late-capitalist society, namely the right to be free from all harassment by the Other including the violent imposition of ethical norms, contrasts sharply with the violent imposition of divine Mosaic law – the Decalogue – from which the (...) idea of human rights ultimately derives. The underlying discursive shift can be analyzed with the help of Lacan: the discourse of the Master had been replaced by university discourse. While the Master's decision is per se violent, university discourse is enunciated from the position of neutral Knowledge. The truth of the university discourse is power: the constitutive lie of the university discourse is that it disavows its performative dimension, presenting what effectively amounts to a political decision based on power as a simple insight into the factual state of things. (shrink)
What do we know about Hegel? What do we know about Marx? What do we know about democracy and totalitarianism? Communism and psychoanalysis? What do we know that isn't a platitude that we've heard a thousand times - or a self-satisfied certainty? Through his brilliant reading of Hegel, Slavoj Zizek - one of the most provocative and widely-read thinkers of our time - upends our traditional understanding, dynamites every cliché and undermines every conviction in order to clear the ground for (...) new ways of answering these questions. When Lacan described Hegel as the ‘most sublime hysteric’, he was referring to the way that the hysteric asks questions because he experiences his own desire as if it were the Other's desire. In the dialectical process, the question asked of the Other is resolved through a reflexive turn in which the question begins to function as its own answer. We had made Hegel into the theorist of abstraction and reaction, but by reading Hegel with Lacan, Zizek unveils a Hegel of the concrete and of revolution - his own, and the one to come. This early and dazzlingly original work by Zizek offers a unique insight into the ideas which have since become hallmarks of his mature thought. It will be of great interest to anyone interested in critical theory, philosophy and contemporary social thought. (shrink)