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1. Living in the End Times
2. First As Tragedy, Then As Farce
3. Violence: Big Ideas/Small Books
4. In Defense of Lost Causes
5. Philosophy in the Present
6. The Essential Zizek: The Complete
7. Zizek: A (Very) Critical Introduction
8. The Puppet and the Dwarf: The
9. The Subject of Politics: Slavoj
10. Lacrimae Rerum: Ensayos Sobre
11. Slavoj Zizek (Routledge Critical
12. Welcome to the Desert of the Real:
13. The Fragile Absolute: Or, Why
14. The Plague of Fantasies (Second
15. The Art of the Ridiculous Sublime:
16. The Sublime Object of Ideology
17. Everything You Always Wanted to
18. For They Know Not What They Do:
19. How to Read Lacan (How to Read)
20. The Neighbor: Three Inquiries

1. Living in the End Times
by Slavoj Zizek
Hardcover: 432 Pages (2010-05-25)
list price: US$29.95 -- used & new: US$18.78
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 184467598X
Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars
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Zizek analyzes the end of the world at the hands of the “four riders of the apocalypse.”There should no longer be any doubt: global capitalism is fast approaching its terminal crisis. Slavoj Zizek 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, Slavok Zizek 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.

After passing through this zero-point, we can begin to perceive the crisis as a chance for a new beginning. Or, as Mao Zedong put it, “There is great disorder under heaven, the situation is excellent.” Slavoj Zizek shows the cultural and political forms of these stages of ideological avoidance and political protest, from New Age obscurantism to violent religious fundamentalism. Concluding with a compelling argument for the return of a Marxian critique of political economy, Zizek also divines the wellsprings of a potentially communist culture—from literary utopias like Kafka’s community of mice to the collective of freak outcasts in the TV series Heroes. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (4)

4-0 out of 5 stars Read it!
For a long time I thought Z. was a kind of academic joke, a media clown - but, after reading a few of his books, especially his work on Schelling, I realized my mistake. He is a serious and innovative thinker but, also, one that appeals to popular thought - this book names an `outside' of capital and whatever the limitations of his alternative - communism (again, as what exactly? And could it be that both Capitalism and Communism are wrong, stemming from the same rotten root of heterodox-secular salvation myths?) - the thought of an outside is the vital thought right now as the riders are approaching, and the wind begins to howl! Go Zizek!

2-0 out of 5 stars disappointed
I am very slowly making my way through the beast of a book, but not due to high density. I actually wish it was more dense. It's a bit of a stretch to call this "philosophy," although Mr. Z is obviously steeped in Hegel and Lacan. Of course, I am implicitly comparing it with Hegel's Phenomenology (I'm reading that one simultaneously) which isn't really fair. But even when weighed against Marcuse, this is clearly a very popularized sojourn into Hegelian-Marxist philosophy. I do appreciate Mr. Z's overall perspective. I just feel like it's possibly not worth weeding through all those literary references. I don't think this stuff is too heady to grasp easily; I think Mr. Z's text is just really meandering, and so literary and jumpy that it's not always clear what he's trying to say until he throws some Hegelian or Lacanian jargon at you with little explication (as if that really clears things up?). I guess if you're good at fitting synoptic-picturesque description to jargon, you're good. I just prefer more middle ground, where people explain their concepts a little more thoroughly and directly. Plus, it seems to me that the heart of what he's saying is something like: "A great deal of what we say is or at least could be considered to be to opposite of what it *really* is. Oh, and please revaluate the soiled-by-Stalinism-etc. notion of 'communism' because it's worth trying to make the world better, and 'communism' (w/o Stalinism) is actually a really viable, even *necessary* thing to consider." That's cool, but why do you have to bring "I Am Legend" into it? You don't! I keep looking for more meat, but I just can't seem to find it. Maybe I need to keep reading? Maybe I should just pick up Badiou instead.

5-0 out of 5 stars An Important Work from a Great Contemporary Philosopher
If I had to recommend one contemporary philosopher for everybody to read, it would definitely be the great Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek. Oblivious of what his prissy colleagues in the academia might think, he gives equal space in his analysis to Husserl, Hegel, Hollywood and Heroes (an American TV series). I tend do disagree with many things that this passionate Marxist and devoted follower of Lacan says but his writing is so brilliant that each new book by him makes me jump for joy right in the bookstore. At over 400 pages long, Living in the End Times is Zizek's most important political statement so far in his fruitful intellectual career.

Zizek is the kind of philosopher who never stoops to triviality. He challenges every preconceived notion we might have. This is the reason why he mocks the concept of tolerance that enraptures liberals, ridicules the practice of recycling, criticizes Mahatma Gandhi as somebody whose struggle to protect the rights of the Untouchables ended up perpetuating the caste society, and ridicules the familiar trope that "globalization thratens local traditions and . . . flattens differences." Those who acquire an ironic distance from ideology and laugh at its tenets are - according to Zizek - most fully under the control of ideology. It is precisely Zizek's willingness to analyze critically every concept that others tend to hold as holy that has led him to be vituperated by pretty much every political group imaginable. If you want a book that will tell you things you already believe, Living in the End Times is not the kind of reading you will enjoy. If, however, you want to be forced to question and to think, Zizek is the philosopher for you. If anger motivates your analytical capacities, then rest easy: Zizek is guaranteed to shock you out of an intellectual aporia.

According to Zizek, we are living through a moment of crisis that our global capitalist system is undergoing. Zizek uses the well-known scheme of the five stages of grief in order to address our collective responses to the crisis. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance give name to the chapters in Zizek's book. There is a certain sense of discontent with the way the system in question functions, says Zizek. There is a danger that this discontent will be appropriated by nationalist populists. The Slovenian philosopher believes that the main task of the progressives is to avoid this and find a way to articulate this discontent in progressive terms.

Zizek's criticism of "today's ethical-legal conservatives" is convincing and incisive, as usual. Their struggle is futile because what they are trying to recreate simply did not exist in the first place: "In wanting to recreate the lost order. . . they will sooner or later be forced to admit not that it is impossible to restore. . . the old traditional mores to life, but that the corruption they are fighting in the modern permissive, secular, egotistic, etc. society was present from the very beginning." Try analyzing pretty much any aspect of the moralistic agenda of the Conservatives and you will see how they are trying desperately to "preserve" a system that - unlike what they would have us believe - isn't time-hallowed in the least.

Zizek points out that in spite of their internal contradictions the conservatives are pretty successful at channeling the growing popular discontent with the current state of affairs to their own ends. He calls the progressives to stop being afraid of radical change. Nobody can guarantee that the revolution will "work", he says. And we'd be wrong to ask for such a guarantee. But we are nearing the apocalyptic moment of a complete disintegration of the current global order. Zizek insists that the only responsible thing for today's progressives to do is to be ready to provide a viable and radically different alternative. We have to come out of our state of denial and recognize that trying to modify the existing system so that it would be somehow "better", "fairer" or "more just" is a completely useful enterprise.

Whether you agree with Zizek's agenda or not, the questions he raises in this book definitely merit to be asked.

2-0 out of 5 stars the standard test
Whenever I come across one of these kinds of books from a European/Slavic philosopher I always perform what I call the "Israel Test." This test tells me whether or not the author is sane. Failing the test, the author can be counted on as either a lunatic with something of interest to say, or just another spiteful blowhard. At any rate, I performed the Israel Test on Living in the End Times and this is what I found. The author believes that the founding of Israel was a crime (his word) and that the Israelis believed they were engaged in a crime. Here you will find many such nuggets tucked and squirrelled away, as the author casually presents them. Personally, as a philosopher myself, I have little truck with such idiots. ... Read more

2. First As Tragedy, Then As Farce
by Slavoj Zizek
Paperback: 158 Pages (2009-10-05)
list price: US$12.95 -- used & new: US$7.08
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 1844674282
Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars
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From the tragedy of 9/11 to the farce of the financial meltdown.

Billions of dollars have been hastily poured into the global banking system in a frantic attempt at financial stabilization. So why has it not been possible to bring the same forces to bear in addressing world poverty and environmental crisis?

In this take-no-prisoners analysis, Slavoj Zizek frames the moral failures of the modern world in terms of the epoch-making events of the first decade of this century. What he finds is the old one-two punch of history: the jab of tragedy, the right hook of farce. In the attacks of 9/11 and the global credit crunch, liberalism dies twice: as a political doctrine and as an economic theory.

First as Tragedy, Then as Farce is a call for the Left to reinvent itself in the light of our desperate historical situation. The time for liberal, moralistic blackmail is over.

... Read more

Customer Reviews (15)

4-0 out of 5 stars Philosophy For Our Time
If you are looking for a critical book that spells out numerous solutions, this is not for you. Zizek is not the most accessible of authors.

He is not meant to be. Instead of telling you how to think and feel, Zizek poses many thoughtful questions and demands that you, dear reader, make your own conclusions. In addition to this, he can be quite funny even while talking about geopolitical thought.

You must have previous knowledge about social sciences and critical theory to understand. In classic Zizek style, a mixture of Lacanian psychoanalytics, pop culture, and history emerges to accurately criticize the present day reality of the Left. Mindless rants about "taking our country back" are not present and instead, clearly constructed arguments appear.

You need to read this book if you are interested in politics and want an intelligent alternative to the ever-present, reactionary dialogue of certain news channels.

4-0 out of 5 stars Call for a debate

Every new work of infamous Slovenian philosopher is bound to attract some attention. Especially when topic is much hated and much debated as communism. Hatred here being only relative term, which awfully depends on where you are from. But, it is rather obvious, or better to say noticeable that thought of the Left is making a major comeback in past few years. That certainly isn't surprising since neo-liberalism failed to fulfill its own promise, and capitalism as a system appears to lead nowhere. To make the picture completely full with details, you'll have to add the horror of 9/11 and the omnipresent financial crisis of modern times. After you do all of this, you'll be on your way to completely understand the position Zizek is speaking from and the type of public he is actually addressing. Now, for those of you who are familiar with his previous work, there really isn't anything out of ordinary here. This book follows the same structure and rhetoric every other Zizek book has ever followed - apart from those that specifically concerned themselves with psychoanalysis and works of Jacques Lacan. Zizek is actually putting a big show with this book, fully aware that him coming out as a communist will be a landmark event in recent Theory which has up to this day managed to escape any connections with this line of thought. Horrors of Stalinism are yet too fresh to merrily prance around the idea that fueled them. But, book does not exhaust itself with this - it actually has to offer some insightful details about the state of the world that we live in today.

It would be an error to presume that "First as tragedy, then as farce" aims to give a conclusive answer about difficulties and problems of modern times. "Modern times" in itself are to complex a notion to be magically solved and/or grasped within the covers of a single book. What Zizek tries to accomplish, and in a way succeeds is pinpoint the discrepancies in neo-liberalist thought and challenging them to a debate. This is being done by focusing reader attention to rhetorics and ideology of the neo-liberalism, by concerning oneself with media products showing them as a fertile ground upon which the seeds of ideology can flourish, and finally dismantling them by showing inconsistencies in them. As far as a creative thought is concerned, Zizek does not stand very well. All he does is saying: "We can't go like this anymore, it's time to make a change, whatever it might be." In a way it's a battle with postmodernism and poststructural schools of thoughts by reintroducing the Idea (the Story) in general discourse from which it has been banished.

There will be lot of challengers willing to dispute Zizek's theories, and mainly all of them will come from the direction of progressivists who will fail to see the main argument of Zizek. It is not a question of what system should be implemented throughout the world. It is a question of slowing down, start asking questions and demanding answers. That is the only way to actually evolve in a responsible community instead of being pushed around by positions with Power. "First as tragedy then as farce" is an invitation to a debate. And a very successful one as it is.

3-0 out of 5 stars enjoyable
Zizek delivers a chaotic collage of observations and adventurous speculations, while skillfully avoiding any conclusions to any of it. Some of the thinking might be even brilliant but, again, it leads nowhere. His pro-communist chapter is particularly disappointing in that regard; I was really interested in reading something more specific, a vision that would at least deserve some consideration. He wouldn't even define communism - after all, it does seem that if one wants to be a communist the term itself needs redefining... Zizek is a good showman, knows how to keep the reader glued to the page so the book is perfect for a 3-4 hour flight. Entertaining author with lots of potential. He just gets continuously lost in thousands of facts and semi-conclusions; his constant mixing of social thought with philosophy and psychoanalysis produces some sort of a salad bar situation. I think the "intellectual virtuoso" style is supposed to impress the reader but this kind of delivery will not sell for long if it doesn't improve. There is some knowledge here (academic and otherwise) and plenty of unorthodox thinking, but you will find no depth and no wisdom. Sorry.

4-0 out of 5 stars A very interesting defense of Communism
Prior to reading Zizek and this book in particular, I'd had no idea exactly what communism was.I certainly wasn't one of the fools spinning it into a political insult without knowing what it meant in the first place (i.e., "Obama is a fascist, communist, socialist alien from outer space without a birth certificate, blah blah blah").Zizek's analysis of the one-two punch (tragedy then farce) of 9/11 and the financial meltdown are penetrating and open you up for his defense of communism.Though it hasn't "converted" me, I've found a great amount of wisdom in this book.If you love absorbing information and opening your mind, this is a title for you.

3-0 out of 5 stars An act of desperation or pure irony?
Zizek is a philosopher who represents a certain desperation as that of whom believed and truly admires the work of Karl Marx and who witnessed first hand the crumble of the communist dream. After the actuality of the complex web of interrelations among people of the planet proved state planned authoritarian governments were just another side of the essential process of exploitation and power, the fervent communists, socialists, leftists and many other ists that claim to have the objective to end exploitation, by them simplified as "capitalism" - as Zizek puts it quite clearly, the "big other" - were left to look for a way to cope with the failure of the beautiful mechanic theory they worked so hard to construct. The biggest failure of Marxism was to follow Marx's brilliant thinking process as a dogmatic base to build their own thinking based upon such wishful, decontextualized, promise of a holy land of leisure time. Where Marx fails as a visionary, he achieves and surpasses as a clever analyst and participant of his own reality. The marxists sanctified his contradictory writings and the twentieth century history was made.

Mr. Zizek, coming from the classic marxist tradition, but a clever man who nevertheless thinks too much of his Slovenian jokes, tries and updates the pledge for the end of economic exploitation from the elegiac position of bringing the good things of Marx's theory to analyze the present. His attempt is noble and, at first, forthcoming, but his lack of actual grasping of the world's political backstage and the intricacies related to technological development as a fundamental behavior changing and conditioning economic fact, blocks his vision to dive deeper in the current financial and terrorism scare crises.

Mr Zizek differs himself from a horde of dialectical philosophers and 'leftists' because he understood quite well the changes caused by "Difference and Repetition", Foucault's complete ouvre, the shake down of Derrida's deconstruction, and the luminary "The Postmodern Condition". He also stands apart for not mixing such condition with Fukuyama's and other pragmatists and cynics' who fails to critically grasp the failures of the present situation and put all their chips on the technological salvation, completely forgetting about the singularities of the individuals involved in all of it. But, he ends up getting confused when trying to formulate the return to a new kind of communism that would still be based on a 'proletarian dictatorship' when he also acknowledges the actual disappearance of the proletarian condition. He is searching, no doubt, for a way to formulate in thought a way out of the dire conditions of poverty and wealth concentration, of social and economic exploitation. At this point he does not complete the loop back to the individual, he stays high above the singularities, desperately laying in the realm of categories. I say desperate because of how the Communist Hypothesis ends in such a messianic and fundamentalist note, truly as an act of desperation, he clearly (or ironically?) proposes a political theology based on a return to Hegel. I must quote the end, because it just made me laugh out loud as not even a comedy has made me do it in a long time: "do not be afraid, join us, come back! You've had your anti-communist fun, and you are pardoned for it - time to get serious again." (Sorry, I am laughing again.) I don't know why, maybe because it sounded like something a couple would say to each other when trying to hold on to a failed relationship. Maybe because this is his take on a possible farce of his proposal. Paraphrasing the title of the first chapter, one can say: It's the individual, stupid!

Nevertheless, the book is a must read. It is definitely many steps beyond the usual liberal or mechanic common sense found in the media and current non-fiction best-sellers. ... Read more

3. Violence: Big Ideas/Small Books
by Slavoj Zizek
Paperback: 272 Pages (2008-07-22)
list price: US$15.00 -- used & new: US$8.20
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0312427182
Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars
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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 (crime, terror), objective (racism, hate-speech, discrimination), and systemic (the catastrophic effects of economic and political systems)--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.

... Read more

Customer Reviews (12)

5-0 out of 5 stars Brilliant
Slavoj Zizek is one of my favorite contemporary philosophers. I cannot recommend his 2008 book Violence strongly enough. It's incredibly well written, so that any reasonably educated person can read it without struggling with arcane references and obscure terms. There is very little Lacan, whcih is great, because we have to admit that Lacan has been dead and buried in any possible sense of the word a long time ago. (For me, the first attribute of a chauvinist is a fascination with Lacan. Thankfully, Zizek seems to be getting over this sad limitation).

The approach Zizek takes to violence is nothing short of brilliant. Trying to analyze violence is always difficult, he argues, since our unavoidable emotional response to it does not allow for a detached rational analysis. This is why he proposes that we "cast ... sideways glances" at it, which will allow us to achieve a "dispassionate conceptual development of the typology of violence." This is exactly what Zizek proceeds to do in his book.

The kind of violence that interests Zizek the most is, of course, that which "pertains to language as such, to its imposition of a certain universe of meaning." With this statement, Zizek brings our attention back to the issues of ideology that for some time have been buried under the proclamations of a "post-ideological" era.

The Slovenian philosopher has no patience with liberal communists and their castrated self-congratulatory agenda: "The delicate liberal communist - frightened, caring, fighting violence - and the blind fundamentalist exploding in rage are two sides of the same coin," says Zizek. "We should have no illusions: liberal communists are the enemy of every progressive struggle today." His critique of these people is strong, direct, and to the point. Zizek tells us that there is no difference whatsoever between the traditional left and the traditional right: "Both the old right, with its ridiculous belief in authority and order and parochial patriotism, and the old left with its capitalized Struggle against Capitalism are today's true conservatives fighting their shadow-theatre struggles and out of touch with the new realities." Nobody could have this better. I have to say that I experienced almost physical pleasure when I read this.

Zizek 's book offers an incredibly profound understanding of the workings of ideology. Those who believe that the debates about ideology have no place in contemporary society should turn to the analysis presented in Violence. According to Zizek: "Verbal violence is not a secondary distortion, but the ultimate resort of every specifically human violence. . . Reality in itself, in its stupid existence, is never intolerable: it is language, its symbolization, which makes it such." There couldn't possibly exist a stronger and more timely vindication of the activities of any philosopher, thinker, and literary critic. Bravo, Zizek!

1-0 out of 5 stars Not impressed
This is one of the first books I've read by Zizek and I found it unimpressive. As a leftist, he is for the most part advocating the very same old ideas that failed left-wing movements before; he simply reformulates these tired arguments in more eloquent writing.

1-0 out of 5 stars Endless repetition
Here is Zizek repeating himself again and again. I was wondering how is it possible that the guy comes up with two new books every year. Answer: Copy/paste from before. There is nothing new here. Different title same thing on "determinate negation," "passage a l'acte," "infinite judgment." Zizek's running out of fuel. Boring.

3-0 out of 5 stars Missed Opportunity
There is a lot of recycled material in this book and a lot that is off the point altogether. So a typical Zizek book. The one idea I found interesting is his explanation of street protests that turn violent, as well as the kind of thing that went on in Paris in 2005, as 'phatic' violence. That is to say, it serves the sole purpose of saying 'I'm here' and 'we're talking'. But Zizek doesn't take it far enough because in fact the phatic requires two interlocutors and its purpose is to keep open the lines of communication. So the obvious point he missed is that the police response is also phatic. By brutalising the protestors, they too are saying 'I'm here' and 'we're talking'. Moreover, if this in fact the case, then this type of protest action will not bring change because it is a routine exchange.

4-0 out of 5 stars A+ For Originality
Zizek is certainly his own man.This is really the only way to describe anything that comes out of his mind.While perplexing and hard to follow at times, he is clearly not an out of touch academic.While I'm inclined to disagree with some of the things he says, there is no doubting that he says some stunning things.

If we are to judge philosophers by the frames of reference for analyzing particular situations, Zizek certainly holds his own.Few people would say outright that Locke, Hobbes, Nietzsche, Wittgenstein, or Plato hit any nails on the head, but by the same token people tend to read these philosophers.Zizek is similar in that respect.He provides an intensely unique point of view with no holds barred.

While I would hope my mind never takes the stances on all the issues Zizek's does, I am certainly glad I read this piece.Seeing what a hyper-critical, clearly brilliant madman thinks about contemporary issues is precisely what I was looking for in a mind-expanding way.Don't get me wrong; the guy can be nuts with his circular analyses at times.However his ability to abolish standard discourse-speak more than makes up for his lapses in clarity.

If I want to think about something on my own, I will.I thank Zizek for producing a work that is clearly a production of his own mind so that I can think about what someone else *really* thinks. ... Read more

4. In Defense of Lost Causes
by Slavoj Zizek
Paperback: 530 Pages (2009-10-19)
list price: US$21.95 -- used & new: US$13.85
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 1844674290
Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars
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Product Description
Acclaimed, adrenalin-fuelled manifesto for universal values by 'the most dangerous philosopher in the West.'

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.'

... Read more

Customer Reviews (9)

1-0 out of 5 stars IN DEFENSE of QUOTATION MARKS
"Something" happens to to "the living dead": a mixing of "the death drive" with "the undead urge", causing a "compulsion to retreat".A "lamella" is subtracted from the "living being"
which therefore has to "tonalize" itself for "secret tolerance", which includes "post-modern
intolerance", a "cynical threat to freedom".An example would be an "absurd decision" outside of "the chain of reasons" like the "sincere hypocracy" of Anne Frank.No wonder
"fundamentalist sects" like "Scientology" and "Cristian Science" claim "objective science" is in agreement with them about "universal human rights".

We "as people" are "transposed" into "things".This "obscene content" relies on "social roles".'I may be an American "gay" man, but a "real personality".If Im "gaming hyper-
space", well, "it's only a game"!'Thus a person can "stage perverse features" of his "symbolic identity" that he could never admit with any "real intersubjectivecontacts".

4-0 out of 5 stars DIVIDED AGAINST ITSELF
The Capacity to Govern: A Report to the Club of Rome; Crazy States: A Counterconventional Strategic Problem

This book is divided against itself: parts of it are outstanding while other parts are esoteric and non-sense other than for members of a strange sect of what I call novo-Marxists.

Its basic theses that failures of the actual praxis of revolutions do not negate some of their values and that global capitalism should not be accepted as irreplaceable by better alternatives are well taken. The discussions of coping with biogenetics are fascinating. And many other insights make the book as a whole worth reading.

However, instead of focusing on main theses and working out coherent alternatives to global capitalism, or at least indicating ways to inventing such alternatives, the book gets lost in at least four labyrinths: (1) It devotes a lot of space to debates with other "sect members" on esoteric issues and responses to their criticism of the author's writings; (2) the book is one-dimensional in its assumptions on human psychology, relying i on some versions of Lacan and Lacanian reinterpretations of Freud, completely ignoring alternative and not less "scientific" schools of psychology; (3) it is captive to Marxian paradigms, making artificial efforts to fit important ideas into outdated language games, instead of bravely developing new paradigms; and (4) the authors pins his hopes on "trust in the people" without any non-anecdotal justification either in history or social sciences.

The fourth error is the most serious of all, undermining the main thrust of the book. The author relies on the new global excluded population of slum-dwellers as the new "good old Marxist...proletarian revolutionary subject " (page 425), where one should look for "signs of the new forms of social awareness that will emerge from the slum collectives: they will be the germs of the future." (page 426). This ignores the realities of slum populations as revealed in empirical studies, ignores radical differences between various groups of slum populations, and leaves out of account the near-certainty that if they should endanger a state or the global order, they will be easily and effectively "repressed" in one way or another.

The author demonstrates in this book ability to contribute to an urgently needed paradigmatic global revolution, but not as long as he is captive to phantasm. What is really needed is some kind of a "Global Leviathan" containing the danger of "the acts of a single socio-political agent [who] can really alter and even interrupt the global historical process [for the worse, up to global calamity] (page 421, my additions in brackets) and to take care of new forms of the "common" as rightly discussed by the author. But such a Global Leviathan can probably only take the form of an authoritative oligarchy of main powers, contrary to from the dreams of the authors.

To make a real contribution of at least some historic significance, the author needs a good dose of "subtraction" (to use a favorite term of the book) from the ideological traps in which this book is caught.

Professor Yehezkel Dror
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

5-0 out of 5 stars Centralized Government Political Philosophy
This book provides a good overview of the political philosophy underlying current thinking and past theories of centralized government control. I think it does a pretty good job of explaining the what and why of centralized government control. I do not agree with the idea that this form of government is good but it may come about unless the general population takes a more responsible position and attitude in its attempt to placate the desires for individual as apposed to general welfare.

4-0 out of 5 stars Read It As Polemic
If for nothing else, you should buy this book because it engages, in a direct and rigorous fashion, with the thought of various luminaries of the Left. While Zizek's discussions of Mao, Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin and Robespierre are stirring in their own right, his assessments of Antonio Negri, Ernesto Laclau, Simon Critchley and fellow-traveler Alain Badiou are acute and incisive. Of especial interest is his careful evaluation of the latent ambiguities in Badiou's political thought, probing its interstices and interrogating its silences. Also crucial is Zizek's neo-Deleuzian injunction to `repeat' Lenin, to actualize the multiple virtualities that Lenin missed. The importance of Zizek for our time lies in his continued exhortation to look beneath the post-structuralist affirmations of endless differentiation, creativity and diversification- tropes that are in no way inimical to the `permanent revolution' of global capitalism- and discern the underlying sameness beneath the protean flux. For instance, what is repressed/disavowed in the First World's triumphalist discourses on limitless mobility and decentralized organization, what is its hidden subtext? As Boltanski and Chiapello have told us in The New Spirit Of Capitalism, the movement of some requires the inertia of others- the nomadic flight of today's jet-setting executive is made possible by the sweatshop worker, the office janitor, outsourced labor. As such, the properly `transcritical' attitude (Kojin Karatani) is to refrain from treating `globalization' as a revolutionary break, a `cut' in history- we must identify the residual sediments of the past that persist in our purportedly `postmodern' age (traces of premodern feudalism in Japan, the predominance of noncapitalist forms of production in South America). This theory of `uneven development' means that we should regard all celebratory affirmations of globalization with extreme suspicion.

5-0 out of 5 stars Excellent contemporary philosophical musings.
I was very happy with this book. It's great to see a prominent intellectual carrying the banner of psychoanalysis in this decade - it is much needed and quite illuminating. You almost, ALMOST tire of the pop culture references, but there is no question that Zizek is operating in the realm of 'the philosophy of pop' rather than pop philosophy. I found this to be a book of great substance and readability. ... Read more

5. Philosophy in the Present
by Alain Badiou, Slavoj Zizek
Hardcover: 80 Pages (2009-12-29)
list price: US$54.95 -- used & new: US$38.00
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Asin: 0745640966
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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Two controversial thinkers discuss a timeless but nonetheless urgent question: should philosophy interfere in the world?

Nothing less than philosophy is at stake because, according to Badiou, philosophy is nothing but interference and commitment and will not be restrained by academic discipline. Philosophy is strange and new, and yet speaks in the name of all - as Badiou shows with his theory of universality.

Similarly, Zizek believes that the philosopher must intervene, contrary to all expectations, in the key issues of the time. He can offer no direction, but this only shows that the question has been posed incorrectly: it is valid to change the terms of the debate and settle on philosophy as abnormality and excess.

At once an invitation to philosophy and an introduction to the thinking of two of the most topical and controversial philosophers writing today, this concise volume will be of great interest to students and general readers alike.

... Read more

Customer Reviews (2)

5-0 out of 5 stars Categories and universals
A book of 100 pages, lacking any list of references or index, this is an interesting, readable discussion (Vienna in 2004) between two academics have not been discouraged by "post-modern" cultural relativism. Alain Badiou is former Chairman of the Department of Philosophy at the Ecole Normale Supérieure, Paris; and Slavoj Zizek is Professor of Sociology, Ljubjana. They discuss philosophy in the post-modern era.The post-modern era is the era of Kant, who turned intelllectuals away from both physical and metaphysical absolutism.Without absolutes, everybody is today supposedly left in the position of today's academic establishment: hopeless cultural relativists, who expect science to create utopia, find all values transient, and rejoice (or lament) that religion and philosophy are "fading away."

In contrast to this academic discouragement, Badiou says that philosophy, far from fading away, defines universals.Universals are defined when we confront incommensurable events, like the confrontation of freedom and politics that resulted in the death of Socrates.Every universal is an "evental," a decision that originates about an undecidable.An example of such an "evental" is `illegal immigrant.'Every universal is an implication, "univocal," and incomplete or open.For instance, `revolution' became a universal in the French Revolution in the subject-thought of the acts.

Because universals are incomplete or open, they are "infinite generic multiples." Badiou offers a distinction between religion as grounded in the problem of life and philosophy as grounded in the problem of death.He offers an example: "The latent violence, the presumptuous arrogance inherent in the currently prevalent conception of human rights derives from the fact that these are actually the rights of finitude and ultimately -- as the insistent theme of democratic euthanasia indicates -- the rights of death.By way of contrast, the evental concept of universal singularities...requires that human rights be thought of as the rights of the infinite." (46) This distinction is not developed, yet it portrays rather nicely how philosophy is grounded in identifying contradiction.

Zizek agrees the assertion that "we have lost belief" is a pseudo-debate because today we believe more than ever.Science is not merely a language game -- it deals with the "unschematized real."For instance, the first post-Communist Slovenian currency had no name -- just denominations. Issuing a currency composed solely of denominations reveals belief.Philosophy is not critique but affirmation.For example, war is to be supported not for the destructionbut for the affirmation of putting an end to evil. (Badiou)Both philosophers are unembarrassed by their ideological positions and explore quite clearly the cybernetic control that philosophy exerts over ideology in a bright, interesting discussion.

5-0 out of 5 stars Badiou and Zizek's Agreement
I found this little book fascinating. It it two very different thinkers clearly agree about how philosophy intervenes in contemporary political situations. For both Badiou and Zizek philosophy does not answer the questions posed in contemporary debates (whom to vote for), rather it radically challenges the questions themselves by posing new questions (Is Democracy itself the real problem?)

Some familiarity with their pointed disagreements on other questions is probably necessary to get the most out of this little book... if only to appreciate how interesting it is that here they so pointedly agree. ... Read more

6. The Essential Zizek: The Complete Set (The Sublime Object of Ideology, The Ticklish Subject, The Fragile Absolute, The Plague of Fantasies: 4 books)
by Slavoj Zizek
Paperback: 1248 Pages (2009-01-05)
list price: US$75.00 -- used & new: US$46.97
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Asin: 1844673278
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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The essential texts for understanding Zizek’s thought.Slavoj Zizek, the maverick philosopher, author of over 30 books, acclaimed as the 'Elvis of cultural theory,' and today’s most controversial public intellectual. His work traverses the fields of philosophy, psychoanalysis, theology, history and political theory, taking in film, popular culture, literature and jokes — all to provide acute analyses of the complexities of contemporary ideology as well as a serious and sophisticated philosophy. His recent films The Pervert’s Guide to the Cinema and Zizek! reveal a theorist at the peak of his powers and a skilled communicator. Now Verso are making these four classic titles, that stand as the core of his ever-expanding life’s work, available as new editions. Each is beautifully repackaged, including new introductions from Zizek himself. Simply put, they are the essential texts for understanding Zizek’s thought and thus cornerstones of contemporary philosophy. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (2)

3-0 out of 5 stars An Entertaining Experience in Light Philosophy
In his Philosophical Notebooks, Lenin wrote that everyone who aims at really understanding Marx's Capital should read the whole of Hegel's Logic in detail, as he did himself. It could also be said that anyone who wants to understand Zizek should first read not only Marx and Hegel, but also Marx through Hegel, Marx and Hegel through Lacan, Kant avec Sade, Plato contra Aristotle, not to mention Schelling, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Freud, Heidegger, Adorno, Deleuze, Althusser, Derrida, Foucault, Badiou, and a bunch of modern social critics including Laclau, Mouffe, Agamben, Hardt and Negri, Ranciere, Balibar, Miller, Butler, and others I didn't care to name check. Prior knowledge of these philosophers' work seems to be a requisite for reading Zizek, who specializes in fiddling with philosophy, psychoanalysis and critical studies all at one fell swoop.

But at that rate, Zizek would lose most of his readers. A majority of people, including myself, pick up his books because they provide an entertaining experience in light philosophy, mixing intellectual discussions with humorous quips and passing remarks on Hollywood movies. People like me read Zizek for fun. A hardcore of devotees adhere to his left-leaning political agenda, which does not particularly square with mine and which can be utterly repulsive unless one takes him with a heavy pinch of salt. Others use him as a guide to Jacques Lacan's key concepts, as Zizek provides an easily accessible version of this markedly obscure brand of psychoanalysis. Few readers take him at his philosophical face value.

Indeed, it is fortunate that most readers engage Zizek with a light philosophical baggage and little interest for logical arguments. True philosophers with an attention to detail would often catch him with his intellectual pants down. He writes at such frantic pace and with such intellectual fury that he often seems to be running ahead of his shoes. He seems to lose any sense of logic whenever Lacan comes up, which happens quite often. He is the kind of person that prefers to be wrong than to be dull, and his taste for paradox and dialectical reversals sometimes obfuscates the rather simple points that he is trying to make. Zizek is more concerned with offending people (sometimes in admittedly funny ways) than with writing philosophy books. As one Amazon reviewer put it, he is vaguely reminiscent of a poor man's Cioran, but with Stalinism filling in for Fascism. He overplays the Lacanian psychoanalysis schtick, too.

One would think that reading all Zizek's books in succession would only compound the problem: on the contrary, it simplifies it somewhat, as the larger concepts begin to emerge from the mist. Zizek usually proceeds by starting from broad intuitions offered as paradoxes or outright provocations: Kant "was not Kantian enough" and didn't draw all the consequences from the finitude of the transcendental subject; Heidegger's Nazi engagement was "a step in the right direction", but he mistook the pseudo-Event of the Nazi revolution for the Event of revolution itself; Habermas "throws the baby" of the political with the bathwater of totalitarianism; despite his anti-Christian stance, Badiou's notion of the Truth-Event finds its paradigm in Christ's arrival and death; for all their anticapitalist credentials, deconstructionists and other post-modern intellectuals serve the interests of global capitalism, which favors modes of subjectivity characterized by multiple shifting identifications; etc.

Zizek's tendency to repeatedly refer back to many of his favorite examples, quotes and references also means that many of his essays are fairly similar. Again, readers are comforted by this great deal of repetition. Lacanian verbose paradoxes acquire a meaning of their own when hammered down from every angle. Even pop-culturally illiterate people like me will see through his references to TV dramas, Hitchcock's flicks, and popular novels. Zizek confirms Bergson's insight that the comical emerges through repetition, as something mechanical encrusted on the living. Even his most tasteless jokes (and they are many) pass as Central European proclivities when engulfed into his overflowing logorrhea. Reading the 1184 pages of The Essential Zizek in a row provides a similar experience as sitting through a horror movie night at the local theater: scenes that could be traumatic when seen in isolation acquire a grand-guignolesque nature, and you emerge from this experience with a sense that it was all a big joke. But there are some provocations which are better left to the realm of nightmares and horror films.

5-0 out of 5 stars Excellent
Slavoj Zizek's achievements are rather large, but as an author he should be lauded even more given the fact that he writes in English (not his native language). Being form Slovenia, he has the first-hand experience growing up in the semi-communist "Eastern Block" country, which I think positively influences the mode of writing, giving it a new fresh twist, adding a certain *je ne sais quoi*. Zizek leaves no topic or phenomena unexamined. He is the only one I know who can write (with authority) about Lenin and Stalin, Wagner and Shostakovich, Freud and Lacan, Hegel and Heidegger, Hitchcock and Lars von Trier practically on the same page and spice it up with jokes and anecdotes from the Eastern Europe. He is not perfect- he repeats himself, diverts, his books are not an easy read, but they could be very rewarding for the readers interested in philosophy, politics and the popular culture. ... Read more

7. Zizek: A (Very) Critical Introduction (Interventions)
by Marcus Pound
Paperback: 168 Pages (2008-11-15)
list price: US$19.00 -- used & new: US$6.85
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Asin: 080286001X
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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5-0 out of 5 stars From the back cover
"With clarity and humor, and in wonderfully short compass, Marcus Pound introduces the thought of not only Slavoj Zizek but also his guru, Jacques Lacan. Pound finds in these masters of inversion a profound anti-theology that only needs to become more theological--more orthodox--in order to work, to rid us of complacency. This is a book for those new to Zizek and for those who, knowing him already, want to know him newly--as the theologian he might almost be. It's as enjoyable as reading Zizek himself." - Gerard Loughlin, Durham University

"Slavoj Zizek's work, always iconoclastic, has since 1997 embraced the seemingly scandalous project of a materialist theology. Marcus Pound's new book is a long-called-for response, from within the field of theology, that takes Zizek's theological turn seriously, testing it against its sources, and situating it within wider theological debates. In doing so, Pound achieves a very searching examination of Zizek's oeuvre, significantly recasting the reception of Zizek's work. Pound's theological perspective also allows him to pose searching questions about what he provocatively calls Zizek's 'politics of abandonment' and about the wider situation of the post-Enlightenment Left today." - Matthew Sharpe, author of _Zizek: A Little Piece of the Real_ ... Read more

8. The Puppet and the Dwarf: The Perverse Core of Christianity (Short Circuits)
by Slavoj Zizek
Paperback: 196 Pages (2003-10-12)
list price: US$19.95 -- used & new: US$11.50
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Asin: 0262740257
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Slavoj Zizek has been called "an academic rock star" and "the wild man of theory"; his writing mixes astonishing erudition and references to pop culture in order to dissect current intellectual pieties. In The Puppet and the Dwarf he offers a close reading of today's religious constellation from the viewpoint of Lacanian psychoanalysis. He critically confronts both predominant versions of today's spirituality--New Age gnosticism and deconstructionist-Levinasian Judaism--and then tries to redeem the "materialist" kernel of Christianity. His reading of Christianity is explicitly political, discerning in the Pauline community of believers the first version of a revolutionary collective. Since today even advocates of Enlightenment like Jurgen Habermas acknowledge that a religious vision is needed to ground our ethical and political stance in a "postsecular" age, this book--with a stance that is clearly materialist and at the same time indebted to the core of the Christian legacy--is certain to stir controversy. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (8)

5-0 out of 5 stars Josh
The puppet and the Dwarf is one of my favorite books by Zizek. Read this and the fragile absolute and you will have my two favorite books from Zizek. In this book Zizek points out why he finds importance in Christianity. It is both compelling and riveting.Waring: if you start reading a Zizek book like The pupper and Dwarf, you must keep reading until the end in order to really get his full picture.

5-0 out of 5 stars Long lost texts reveal that Christianity is a Jewish plot!
In the face of the evangelical whoredom, Marxists are the last defenders of true religion.The Right Wing in the United States is trying to destroy the meaning of Christianity, but the Left is not going down without a fight.Jesus was not the reason for the season, but he was one of the most revolutionary thinkers of all time.This book insists that the "body of Christ" is a material phenomenon; that the community of believers can only be realized in revolution.Zizek is the best Slovenian philosopher I know, truly!

5-0 out of 5 stars philosophy rock star
i love it.liberalism is akin to nazism in it's refusal to question it's dogma of questioning dogma.and other gems.this guy is the forefront of philosophy today.

2-0 out of 5 stars Remember 11. Thesis
Firstly, the book is really full of interesting quotations, comments, reasonings and critiques. Secondly, very much badly organized and scattered in terms of argumentation. It gets sometimes very hard to follow the author's points. Thirdly, the main theme is in no way can be taken as more than an intellectual exercise of an intellectual pop star. The idea that chiristianity has a hard kernel which grasps the real human condition (the split inherent in the subject) is not even a pseudo-marxist or pseudo-lacanian view. What lacan borrows from Hegel's dialectic, his concept of divided self or marxist analysis of history is not in any way in conformity with chiristian idea of fall of man or the idea of trinity as such as the book puts forward. It just seems to be the cultural prejudice of a man from post-communist Balkans who has very litle real say in postmodern era but repeats very old euro-centrist teological stuff. We must remember marxist hard kernel in what Marx happened to say in "11. Thesis on Feurbach": "the critique of religion as essence is over". So is praise of so-called religious hard kernels.

5-0 out of 5 stars What can one say about Zizek?
Okay, so what can one say about Zizek?--at times brilliant, infuriating, outrageous...yes, all of the above. If you are looking for the secrets that unfold time and space itself, then, this is not the book for you. But, if you are looking for a fantastic read of applied Lacanian theory on religion and other cultural arenas, then, by all means this book is worth the buy. It is almost getting trite to hear people complain about Zizek's style, analysis, originality, etc...After all, he is only a man. Rather, to focus on the strengths of this book: it does a good job of introducing one to some interesting Lacanian issues, such as the the super-ego, the idea that the Other does not exist, Lacan's interesting thesis that God is not dead but unconscious, just to name a few. Also, many of the jokes that Zizek loves to tell are put into footnotes instead of the body of the text which gives the text more focus. Also, if one has been keeping up with Zizek's interventions into Christianity versus Judaism, then, one may be interested in this book because he does change some of his positions. All in all, this book represents some of Zizek's best work since "Ticklish Subject." ... Read more

9. The Subject of Politics: Slavoj Zizek's Political Philosophy
by Henrik Jøker Bjerre, Carsten Bagge Laustsen
Paperback: 126 Pages (2010-06-26)
list price: US$21.50 -- used & new: US$18.37
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Asin: 1847601790
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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A study of Slavoj Žižek's political philosophy. Focusing on the combination of psychoanalytic theory and philosophy, the book offers an overview of Žižek's analysis of contemporary society. In five chapters, the reader is introduced to Žižek's method, his view of the political impasse in the postmodern world, and his suggestion for a way ahead to renewed action and political invention. Rich in examples, the book gives an engaging and entertaining tour around the landscape of Žižek's political endeavour, while at the same time insisting on a more systematic and piecemeal approach than the Slovenian tends to offer himself. ... Read more

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5-0 out of 5 stars Entertaining Theory
A lively and accessible guide to Zizek. It does a good job of presenting his complex and electic writings. ... Read more

10. Lacrimae Rerum: Ensayos Sobre Cine Moderno y Ciberespacio (Referencias (Debate)) (Spanish Edition)
by Slavoj Zizek
Paperback: 313 Pages (2006-08)
list price: US$32.40 -- used & new: US$28.52
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Asin: 987111723X
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11. Slavoj Zizek (Routledge Critical Thinkers)
by Tony Myers
Paperback: 160 Pages (2003-12-03)
list price: US$22.95 -- used & new: US$15.62
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Asin: 0415262658
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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Tony Myers provides a clear and engaging guide to Zizek's key ideas, explaining the main influences on Zizek's thought, most crucially his engagement with Lacanian psychoanalysis, using examples drawn from popular culture and everyday life. ... Read more

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5-0 out of 5 stars Outstanding accompaniment to the works of Zizek
Myers begins with quick reviews of the major influences on Zizek: Hegel, Marx, and Lacan. Thorough for those unfamiliar with these theorists but not insulting to those who know them well, these introductions set the stage for several chapters focusing on main themes, particularly on Zizek's exploration of Lacan's the Real and the Symbolic. Read with The Zizek Reader, it was very useful.Zizek's genuine contributions to Lacanian thought are powerful and politically practical. ... Read more

12. Welcome to the Desert of the Real: Five Essays on September 11 and Related Dates
by Slavoj Zizek
Paperback: 154 Pages (2002-10-17)
list price: US$14.95 -- used & new: US$8.03
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Asin: 1859844219
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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In the months after September 11, titles like 'The End of the Age of Irony' abound in our media. Liberals and conservatives proclaim the end of the American holiday from history. Now the easy games are over; one should take sides. Zizek argues this is precisely the temptation to be resisted. In such moments of apparently clear choices, the real alternatives are most hidden. Welcome to the Desert of the Real steps back, complicating the choices imposed on us. It proposes that global capitalism is fundamentalist and that America was complicit in the rise of Muslim fundamentalism. It points to our dreaming about the catastrophe in numerous disaster movies before it happened, and explores the irony that the tragedy has been used to legitimize torture. Last but not least it analyses the fiasco of the predominant leftist response to the events.

About the series: Appearing on the first anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, these series of books from Verso present analyses of the United States, the media, and the events surrounding September 11 by Europe's most stimulating and provocative philosophers. Probing beneath the level of TV commentary, political and cultural orthodoxies, and 'rent-a-quote' punditry, Baudrillard, Virilio, and Zizek offer three highly original and readable accounts that serve as fascinating introductions to the direction of their respective projects, and as insightful critiques of the unfolding events. This series seeks to comprehend the philosophical meaning of September 11 and will leave untouched none of the prevailing views currently propagated. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (5)

5-0 out of 5 stars you need to read this book
Well there are few people on this earth who have an understanding on what's going on in just about every corner of the planet, Zizek is one of those few and far in-between people. In short: you need to read this book to try and set yourself straight on what is real and what is not. It's just straight talk..... no no nonsense!

5-0 out of 5 stars A Renaissance of Political Philosophy
I am overwhelmed by Zizek's judgment of the political situation he presents in this book. It concerns world politics after 9/11 and is still very actual. What makes this book so interesting, is that Zizek distances himself from a simplifying (left-wing) critique of American foreign politics and gives at the same time a compelling interpretation of the complexity of the "clash of cultures" that haunt still our Tv-News today.
Against a cynical attitude towards politics Zizek's defends what he calls a "political act" of truth. This is not the slogan of a new philosophical ideology but a defence of a truth that can't be "relativiced" by post-modern Philosophy. Zizek thus revives political philosophy by overcoming philosophical patterns that dominated the second half of the 20th century.

5-0 out of 5 stars a great book
~~~I truly enjoyed this book, which provides great insight while analyzing the current situation of the States. Not "with us or against us," as Bush constantly stated,but we are against them, since both military leaders in the US and Bin Laden's terrorists are following the same logic. What happend in September 11 had happened in third world countries everywhere, but we Americans watched them as virtual reality until this has become real in our territory. Nothing can justify what happened in~~ September 11, just as nothing could~~ justify what happened in third world countries, which had appeared as spectatles until that point. It's stupid to exchange one terror against another, because this will entail endless circle of violence. What one must do is to be awake from this rosy dream, to realize the existence of the desert of the real, and resist "them", who have been making such terrible spectacles happen everywhere,Mid-East, Africa, Asia, but not simly in the US, which has~~ become part of the desert of reel.~

4-0 out of 5 stars Psychoanalysis meets 9/11
In my opinion,Zizek is the most profound cultural analyst writing today, and this short collection of several contemplative essays on 9/11 succeeds in truly saying something new and important about the scope of the events that transpired. Zizek's writing style is famous for achieving a mixture between abstruse, Lacanian psycho-analysis and popular culture. This makes him perhaps one of the most difficult but most enjoyable reads out there in the cultural criticism market. Certainly, this stands out from the the sentimental fluff and proganda rubbish that flies off the shelves. Zizek challenges us to think outside the canard of 'fundamentalism' vs. American hegemony and capitalism.

4-0 out of 5 stars Reality as illusion
To people who come to this book looking for an analysis of the attacks on the World Trade Center this book will appear to be peculiar and eccentric, and therefore in questionable taste.Slavoj Zisek is a Marxist philosopher from the formerly Yugoslav republic of Slovenia.(At the same time he is quite caustic against those who think that Milosevic's horrors could have been avoided by an appeal to the cosmopolitan virtues of Titoism.Not within the party framework, at any rate.)He has a special interest in the French psychoanalyst Lacan, which does not stop him from discussing other imposing figures such as Hegel, Adorno, Foucault and, suprisingly in this book, G.K. Chesterton.At the same time he discusses popular movies from "Unbreakable" to "Shrek."Like Terry Eagleton he has a fondness, and a weakness, for paradox and contradiction.A person examining this book will note that the five essays are not as concise and straightforward as they may appear.(They will also note that this book has six chapters.)The unsympathetic reader may wonder how we get from the events of September 11th to sado-masochism and "The Piano Teacher," to Judith Butler and Antigone.Given the bottomless malice of Al Qaidya towards any concept of freedom, surely, one might state, it is irresponsible to say that freedom of thought is the surest way of ensuring submission and control (as Zisek suggests in his introduction)?

In fact, Zisek is a stimulating and important writer and the reader should take the effort to appreciate him.To the extent that this book has a thesis it is expressed on the cover.Instead of the attacks forcing the United States to rethink its attitude towards the rest of the world, it has allowed itself to view itself solely as a victim.By contrast "That is the true lesson of the attacks:the only way to ensure that it will not happen here again is to prevent it happening anywhere else."At the same time Zisek is vehement against those who showed a certain schaudenfreude at American suffering, or those tempted to euphemize Palestianian suicide bombers.On the Islamists themselves, Zisek makes an interesting point against those who wish for a "Protestant" reformation for Islam.There already has been one.Like Protestantism, the Wahabbi sect that rules Saudi Arabia rejects the accretions and growths of Islam over the previous centuries as so much quasi-pagan superstition.Like Protestantism it emphasizes holy scripture and even offers suggestions for a more practical bible interpretation.Clearly, this is not enough.Elsewhere Zisek points out that in a way political Islam is Islamic fascism, in the sense that it seeks a capitalism without capitalism, or a capitalism with its destabilizing effects.

Elsewhere Zisek has stimulating things to say about "The Matrix" from which he extracts his title, and about the way that movie and others like "The Truman Show," reflect a nervous anxiety that "our" suburban life is something unreal.At the same time, one cannot unproblematically search for the real, a la Orwell, a certain harmony with fantasy is crucial to Lacanian good health.There are interesting comments on suicide as the expression not of certainty, but of doubt, not as sacrifice, but as evasion.His comments on "Shrek" will be of great comfort to all those who think that film over-rated:it is a movie which overturns all conventions yet at the same time only reaffirms them.Zisek cautions against the use of "proto-fascist": not all criticisms of decadence or invocations of discipline are fascist--consider the example of Schoenberg.He also notes that the private sphere is becoming a commodified space.The only way, he suggests, for true love to exist is not for the lovers to stare into each others eyes but at some sort of collectivity outside them.He is especially angry at Jonathan Alter and Alan Dershowitz for suggesting the torture of terrorists.As he quite properly points out, if torturing terrorists could save lives, then the torturing of prisoners of wars would saveeven more.Although at one point he argues that anti-Americanism is most common in countries that have lost their influence, like France and Germany, he argues that it is vitally necessary for a European response to provide an alternative to American diplomacy.On this point, I fully agree. ... Read more

13. The Fragile Absolute: Or, Why Is the Christian Legacy Worth Fighting For? (Second Edition)(The Essential Zizek)
by Slavoj Zizek
Paperback: 157 Pages (2009-01-05)
list price: US$22.95 -- used & new: US$12.17
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Asin: 1844673022
Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars
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Argues that the subversive core of the Christian legacy forms the foundation of a politics of universal emancipation.

One of the signal features of our era is the re-emergence of the 'sacred' in all its different guises, from New Age paganism to the emerging religious sensitivity within cultural and political theory.

The wager of Zizek's The Fragile Absolute – published here with a new preface by the author – is that Christianity and Marxism can fight together against the contemporary onslought of vapid spiritualism. The revolutionary core of the Christian legacy is too precious to be left to the fundamentalists.

... Read more

Customer Reviews (7)

3-0 out of 5 stars A Shared Lie is an Incomparably More Efficient Bond for a Group Than the Truth
The Fragile Absolute opens with a call to arms: "Christianity and Marxism should fight on the same side of the barricade against the onslaught of new spiritualism." Similarly, it closes with an invocation of the emancipatory potential of the Christian community of believers, spearheaded by "authentic psychoanalytic and revolutionary political collectives."

But apart from this plea for a holy alliance under the banner Christ, Marx and Freud (or Saint Paul, Lenin, and Lacan), this book says very little about the Christian legacy, or why it should be worth fighting for. If there is a dominant theme in this loosely connected collection of short essays, it is that our beliefs are underlined by dirty little secrets, that there is an obscene and disavowed underside to our publicly acknowledged values. Zizek's goal is to bring the skeleton out of the closet, and to confront us with our unsavory family history.

According to Zizek, Judaism and Islam depend on a violent founding event that they repress and try to hide away, but that returns to haunt them. For Islam, it has to do with the role of women: Ishmael, the progenitor of all Arabs and the first son of Abraham, is presented in Genesis as the son of the Egyptian slave Hagar whereas the latter doesn't appear in the Qur'an (this is no secret for Moslems, who simply contest the Genesis version). For Judaism, the secret is that Moses was not a Jew but an Egyptian and that he was murdered by his people (you have to trust Freud on that one). Christianism's founding event is that Jesus died on the cross, but that is nobody's secret.

Family secrets are not confined to religions: for Freud, the founding of a community involves the murder of the father and the ensuing guilt that brings the brothers together. Similarly, the subconscious of any individual is marked by a primal scene or fundamental fantasy that, according to Freud, finds its way into consciousness through dreams and symptoms. No matter that the murder of the primordial father and other Freudian myths didn't take place: "they are in a way more real than reality; they are 'true', although, of course, they didn't really take place". Like ghosts, they continue to haunt the living, dwelling in a mysterious region of nonexistent entities which nonetheless persist and continue to exert their efficacy. A shared lie is an incomparably more efficient bond for a group than the truth.

(Zizek sees this mechanism at work "even in some Lacanian communities where the group recognizes itself through common use of some jargonized expressions whose meaning is not clear to anyone, be it 'symbolic castration' or 'divided subject' - everyone refers to them, and what binds the group together is ultimately their very shared ignorance. The Master-Signifier which guarantees the community's consistency is a signifier whose signified is an enigma for the members themselves - nobody really knows what it means, but each of them somehow presuppose that others know.")

For Zizek, one becomes a full member of a community not simply by identifying with its explicit tradition, but only when one also assumes the spectral dimension that sustains this tradition. On should therefore not only pay attention to the symbolic law but also to its obscene underside, the 'virtual' narrative of the irredeemable excess of violence that establishes the very rule of law. To Proudhon's famous claim that property is theft, Zizek adds that law is crime: the rule of law is based on a crime, on a "violent gesture that brings about a regime which retroactively makes this gesture itself illegal/criminal."

The Fragile Absolute is published in a series that collects The Essential Zizek. It provides a good introduction to the author, although seasoned Zizek readers will find many repetitions with other books, and sometimes within the same book. Interested readers will find quotations of canonical texts, like the passage in Marx's Manifesto where "all that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at least compelled to face with sober senses his real condition in life, and his relation with his kind."

2-0 out of 5 stars red herring
zizek is trapped in lacan, hegel, heidegger...he has no solution to the loss of subjectivity because these philosophers are the reason for objectification...zizek, zisk means 'profit'...just like the greek myths were meant to instill mass objectification among its subjects, so too, the modern re-introduction via freud, lacan circulate the same objectivity, paramount for capital and social order, pretending to solve its enigma, the solution is the reason and cause...it all justifies objectivity by arguing the ultimate loss of self and realm of Other and chaos...its tautological...its fraudulent...the last chapter deals with Christianity, sort-of, the rest is weird lacanian, hegel mumbo...this is why zizek is popular, he has no solution nor wants one...read baudrillard if you are really interested in how capital controls

4-0 out of 5 stars Cristianismo-Leninismo
En 1940, Walter Benjamin ilustraba la historia como una partida de ajedrez entre las fuerzas dominantes y un títere llamado "Materialismo Histórico" que era manejado por "Teología": una enana que se escondía por ser tan fea. Ahora es lo contrario: el "giro teológico" posmoderno es enseñar a la teología y esconder el materialismo histórico por asqueroso e intocable. Restos de un pasado paria. Si Marx aparece en Newsweek es por su crítica sofisticada del fetichismo. Lenin, en cambio, es impresentable: un fanático oriental, como Mao. Esta es la tesis de Slavoj Zizek quien retoma el cristianismo paulino como una versión pre-leninista de la revolución. Zizek arguye por una ética incondicional, consciente hasta las últimas, como en San Pablo y Lenin. El compromiso "revolucionario" no es solamente con el Nuevo Comienzo sino con el Terror que trae: la tarea de Lo Peor con sus mártires y purgas. Cuando vemos que todos los pueblos atrasados "aspiran" a la democracia, olvidamos que ésta sueña perversamente con paredones. El terrorismo fue lo mejor que pudo pasarle a la democracia: no la puso sobreaviso sino que le regaló más control migratorio, menos derechos civiles y más racismo.Pero la anestesia de la filosofía democrática prolifera con éticas y políticas cursis que ni se diferencian de un catálogo de perfumes. Espejos de un aristotelismo siempre mediocre: de liberales a socialistas. Por dichas taras, segun Zizek, cualquier autenticidad o radicalismo es fundamentalista y ortodoxa. La falta de pasión se complementa con la guerra global.El acto de guerra del 11-S todavía se considera impensable y la ausencia bélica se compensa con el más grande gasto militar de la historia.El consenso (u oportunismo trascendental) se ayuda con éticas "profesionales" e ideologías dormilonas: acción comunicativa, indecibilidad, autorrealización personal, los hombres son de Marte, las mujeres de Venus, etc. Es la evidencia borrega de la falta pública de evidencia. Por eso, para Zizek, la huida contemporánea a la "teología" es lo propio de las tendencias privatizantes en la sociedad cosmopolita. En la "hospitalidad" cosmopolita, la empatía se combina con la náusea. Se desinfectan las otras culturas de sus excrementos como se fumigan las religiones de su fe. Sus tradiciones son de un paraíso perdido y al mismo tiempo, estúpidas y sexistas. Como en el desapego budista, el otro encanta y al mismo tiempo apesta. Las "minorías" sexuales demandan derechos del Estado y al mismo tiempo quieren ser "contraculturales". En las Universidades occidentales, está bien ser anarquista pero con un puesto en propiedad.Para Zizek, en la sexualidad actual, donde lo normal es ser sadomasoquista; el Capital nos demanda perversiones sin subversiones. La Ley no sería la Represión, sino el imperativo del Goce, por lo que nos sumimos en una pulsión indiferente. El núcleo "perverso" del cristianismo, en Zizek, está en la muerte de Cristo como evento que encuentra su fidelidad posterior en el goce de la Ley. Cuando se quiere la Ley, ya no existe su Prohibición. Todo se le permite al cristiano porque "Dios es Amor".Por eso, la Iglesia nunca ha reprimido la perversión, sino que en nombre de lo Universal, -lo cual es histeria-hubo Cruzadas y violaciones, la confesión favorita de la lujuria laica y el que escoge ser cura puede gozar con todos los monaguillos que quiera. La diferencia con el Capital es que ahora, el Universal ni siquiera está regido por algo contingente, sino por la ambigüedad fría y vacía del oportunismo ideológico donde no hay ni democracia ni terror.

1-0 out of 5 stars SOS
This writing is what brings out the positivist in the best of us.Nonsense from beginning to end. What would Wittgenstein not say?

4-0 out of 5 stars Theology for Marxists, Atheists and Agnostics
A self-described "fighting atheist," though not a very conventional one, and an avowed Marxist, though not a very typical or orthodox one, Žižek writes rooted deeply within Lacanian psychoanalysis in order to produce some of the most intriguing, bewildering, and relevant philosophy concerned with post-modern conundrums such as relativism, agency, and subjecthood.

Žižek in this work embraces the shared Marxist and Christian messianic visions of history as an alternative to both the post-modern, New Age-Gnostic moral sludge dominating PC culture and the excesses of capital.The true heart of the work-and its most convincing parts as well-occur mid-way through in Žižek `s treatment of Pauline agape vs. the Law/Sindialectic as it relates to modern human rights.More or less, this is a desperate attempt to revive Marxism as an alternative to Liberalism. Good Luck.

Žižek writes in a frenetic, gregarious style that is endearing but not necessarily rigorous.His penchant for citing movies, novels and popular culture besides the likes of Schelling, Lacan, Hegel and Heidegger lightens the atmosphere, but the problem is that many things that he says, many conclusions he arrives at from overly generalized instances of cultural practice are just blatantly false.Also, it can be annoying when he rambles on for five pages about a movie you've never seen, thus, making any attempt to understand his point tedious. [Recommendation: definitely make sure you've watched Hitchcock's VERTIGO before reading this book].

For me, Žižek is one of the authors with whom I part ways with on the big questions but with whomI often side with on the smaller questions.His acuity in the realm of cultural interpretation and his applications of Lacanian psychoanalysis to politics are both haunting and memorable long after you've finished the books.Re-reading this book, I came across this passage in footnote #12 that sent shivers down my spine with it's accuracy. ... Read more

14. The Plague of Fantasies (Second Edition)(The Essential Zizek)
by Slavoj Zizek
Paperback: 320 Pages (2009-01-05)
list price: US$24.95 -- used & new: US$13.18
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Asin: 1844673030
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Zizek takes on the relations between fantasy and ideology, and the deluge of pseudo-concrete images surrounding us.

Modern audiovisual media have spawned a 'plague of fantasies', electronically inspired phantasms that cloud the ability to reason and prevent a true understanding of a world increasingly dominated by abstractions—whether those of digital technology or the speculative market.

Into this arena, enters Zizek: equipped with an agile wit and the skills of a prodigious scholar, he confidently ranges among a dazzling array of cultural references—explicating Robert Schumann as deftly as he does John Carpenter—to demonstrate how the modern condition blinds us to the ideological basis of our lives.

... Read more

Customer Reviews (5)

5-0 out of 5 stars One of Lacan's Best Books--Oops,Sorry, I Meant 'Zizek'
"The Plague of Fantasies" is Zizek at his best: funny, irreverent, brilliant and sometimes just silly. Zizek is a master of critical theory: from Schelling and Hegel to Alain Badiou, he knows it all, and knows it in detail.

In this book, Zizek discusses a number of ideas, all of which focus around one or another aspect of Lacanian theory. Make no mistake about it: Zizek is a Lacanian (he may even know Lacan better than Lacan did). He analyzes various aspects of popular culture and leftist politics. Unlike some of his other books, however, this narrative is fast-paced and moves right along. In terms of ideas, he is mostly a passer-on of those which he has derived from others: the violence of interpretation, for instance, in which the deforming of a text's meaning, though untrue to the author's aims, nonetheless produces a truth effect which justifies the deliberate (mis)intepretation, is borrowed from Paul de Man; or the problem of the desublimated Other, which goes something like this: let's say you're having sex with your partner and all of a sudden your mind wanders. What's happened? According to Zizek, borrowing from Lacan here, your partner has (hopefully temporarily) slipped out of the phantasmatic reference frame you've built around him or her, for Zizek insists that we are always viewing others within frames of fantasy, in one way or another.

His discussion of the three types of shaven vagina in the book's intro is bold and fun; as is also his discussion of the semiotic differences between French, American and German toilets (perhaps a new explanation for the real [i.e. obscene] causes of the World Wars?)

Zizek is at his best and most entertaining in his analyses of movies. In the book's Forward, his comments about John Carpenter's "They Live" is priceless (I'll forgive him his reference to "Spielberg's Star Wars Trilogy,"; after all, one can't get everything right); his discussion of the leading motif of Spielberg's films being about the absent father, or the father figure who has lapsed in his duties and must learn how to make up for his lapse by defending his neglected family against the traumatic impact of the Real of some monstrous force (i.e. Nazis, dinosaurs, aliens from outer space) is a great insight, although he oversteps his bounds when he says that these films are about nothing else. That is false, trust me. There are all kinds of wonderful mythological and cosmological updates and retrievals going on in Spielberg's films. (A dose of heretical Jungian theory here might have helped him out a bit).

In any case, this book is a great place to begin if you are interested in reading Zizek. Though I don't always agree with him, he hardly ever fails to entertain me (except when he goes into long pedantic discussions about the function of the Ego in Fichte or Schelling's concept of the Absolute; I mean, come oooon!) In great books, it's the personality of the author that counts, and so one does not read Zizek so much for his ideas (since, let's face it, they're borrowed from just about everybody who's anybody in Critical Theory) as for the entertaining effect of his personality. He is a great raconteur (like Reagan) and tells great jokes (also like Reagan) but in other respects, he is entirely dissimilar from the former US president.

As Zizek, I mean, Lacan, would have said, borrowing perhaps from Coca-cola: "Enjoy!"

3-0 out of 5 stars Zizek: A Self-Portrait
There are two subjects people shouldn't mention in a social dinner conversation: religion and sex (some may also add politics). People should withhold their potentially controversial opinions for a more suitable venue. But it is perfectly alright to talk about oneself, and that's what most people usually do. Slavoj Zizek talks and writes a lot about sex, about religion and about politics. He seems to have a view on everything, and is ready to spill it all, without restraint or taboo. But there is one subject he doesn't mention very often: himself. Apart from the biographical sketch at the beginning of each book (and this reedition of The Essential Zizek gets a revamped notice, complete with his stint as a presidential candidate in 1990), we know surprisingly little about Zizek as an individual. He seems to be a larger-than-life character, but he doesn't disclose much about himself.

The Plague of Fantasies nonetheless contains some biographical elements. Military service is mentioned twice, and from this fact alone we can deduce that it must have been a life-changing experience. The Yugoslav army was divided along ethnic lines, and as many militaries, it was strongly homophobic. Zizek relates some episodes of everyday life in the barracks: obscene pranks revealing the disavowed homosexual libidinal economy underlying the homophobic ideology, or the sexual insults exchanged as common greetings among comrades. There the signifier acquires a life of its own: a soldier who confesses he would like fried eggs for dinner is submitted to an obscene ritual that has to do with a Serbo-Croat pun on "eggs on the eye"; and references to one's mother's or sister's sexual life are exchanged as friendly greetings among individuals otherwise sensitive to the extreme about family honor.

Going through military service exposed the aspiring intellectual to the shock of the Real; but it wasn't an altogether negative or traumatic experience. As Zizek notes, "every intellectual knows the redeeming value of being temporarily subjected to military drill, to the requirements of a 'primitive' physical job, or to some similar externally regulated labour - the very awareness that the Other regulates the process in which I participate, sets my mind free to roam since I know I am not involved."

There are also several references to Yugoslavia under communism, to the war in Bosnia, and to people's prejudices towards the Balkans. Surprisingly, the worst distortions seem to come from people close to the scene. Emir Kusturica's film Underground is criticized not for its overt bias towards the Serbs, but because of its 'depoliticized' aestheticist attitude that, according to Zizek, comes close to a neo-Fascist perspective. Peter Handke, the Austrian novelist and playwright, turned against Slovenia when the country became independent and since then directs attacks against that nation that would be labelled as racist and xenophobic in any other context.

According to Zizek, 'Balkanism' functions in a similar way to Edward Said's 'Orientalism': the Balkans are the timeless space on to which the West projects its phantasmatic content. But Zizek is no Slovenian nationalist nor a nostalgic of the former Yugoslavia. To those who want to separate the 'baby' of healthy nationalism from the 'bathwater' of ethnic fanaticism, he replies that "in the matter of national identity, one should also endeavor to throw out the baby (the spiritual purity of the national identity) in order to reveal the phantasmatic support which structures the jouissance in the national Thing."

But perhaps it is misleading to look for biographical elements or contextual references in Zizek's texts. An intellectual reveals himself not by exposing his inner self or relating his life story, but by stating his tastes and distastes and by acknowledging his debt to a pantheon of authors. Here Zizek's personal landscape is much clearer, and he doesn't try to deceive, impress or avoid the public's gaze. What he writes is what you get. Zizek practices the art of the self-portrait through close reading of philosophical texts, references to novel plots or music compositions, and movie commentary.

To his core theoretical apparatus of Lacan, Hegel, and Marx, he adds a vast array of cultural references, spanning from high brow to low pop.The philosophers he revisits in the course of this particular book are, in historical order, Malebranche, Kant, Schelling, Kierkegaard, Adorno, Arendt, Althusser, Deleuze and Badiou. In movies, Alfred Hitchcock is his all-time favorite, but he also makes frequent references to Luis Bunuel, Sergei Eisenstein, Frank Capra, and more modern films like Robert Altman's MASH or David Lynch's Wild at Heart. Pop culture commentary includes the TV series Star Trek, Columbo and the X-files. In literature, references are made to Shakespeare's Hamlet, Kafka's Castle and James' Ambassadors. Astute critique of Robert Schumann's Humoresque and references to Mozart, Wagner, Bach, Beethoven and Berlioz also reveal the classical music lover. If a conversationalist's skills are judged based on the breadth of his culture and on the depth of his insights, then Zizek must be a much sought-after social guest - if only he could refrain from talking about sex, God, and politics.

4-0 out of 5 stars Lacanian pyschoanalysis applied to politics
Zizek's claim to fame is his rapacious wit, keen insights, and his profound, hilarious and shocking use of anecdotes.Here, Zizek focuses on the relation between fantasy and desire, and the latter he sees as rooted fully in the former.Fantasy, he argues, is the foundation for political and social action.As a Marxist, he makes an interesting some interesting arguments along a line that is seemingly contradictory to his ideological convictions employing Lacan heavily but also drawing upon and offering some interesting interpretations of Hegel.He ends the book with insights on how the digitization of our universe--overly fantasized--as alienated us from our corporeality.This he views negatively as a plague--finally suggesting that the task of critical theory is the inverse of the traditional one starting with concrete social reality and then moving to abstract notions.Rather, the pseudo-concrete and virtual which now structure our lives must be debunked.His writing is erratic but intrepid and certainly worth the effort.

5-0 out of 5 stars joussance?
hard but joyfull studyng- my best boo

5-0 out of 5 stars Reading Theory Isn't Supposed to Be This Fun, Is It?
For those who enjoy the challenge of reading high theory but are put off by the dry, abstract, pretentious ramblings that more often than not constitute theoretical writing, Zizek is the theorist for you.Is there another theorist alive who can on one page explicate the finer points of Lacan, Hegel and Kant, while on the next page tie it all in with the three most popular female pubic hair styles, homosexual ; and subtle distinctions among toilet designs in Germany, France, and the United States?Perhaps. But Zizek makes these seemingly awkward transitions and uncommon examples quite smoothly; the outrageous examples aren't forced, nor are they merely for "shock" value.In short, they work to clarify the difficult concepts he is discussing.Although Zizek is not what I'd call an easy read - not by a long shot - he certainly knows how to make a challenge a bit less stressful and - gasp! - fun.END ... Read more

15. The Art of the Ridiculous Sublime: On David Lynch's Lost Highway (Occasional Papers (Walter Chapin Simpson Center for the Humanities), 1.)
by Slavoj Zizek
Paperback: 48 Pages (2000-06)
list price: US$18.95 -- used & new: US$14.05
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Asin: 0295979259
Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars
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"The Art of the Ridiculous Sublime" is first of all the detailed reading of David Lynch's "Lost Highway", based on the premises of Lacanian psychoanalysis. Lynch's unique universe of the 'ridiculous sublime' is interpreted as a simultaneous playful staging and traversing of the fundamental ideological fantasies that sustain our late capitalist society. A master of reversals, Zizek invites the reader to re-examine with him easy assumptions, received opinion, and current critical trends, as well as pose tough questions about the ways in which we understand our world and culture. He offers provocative readings of "Casablanca", "Schindler's List", and "Life Is Beautiful" in the process of examining topics as diverse - and as closely linked - as ethics, politics, and cyberspace. Slavoj Zizek is senior researcher in the Department of Philosophy, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia. He is the author of more than 70 books including 11 in English. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (7)

4-0 out of 5 stars Explicating Lynch using Lacan or explicating Lacan using Lynch
Stand forewarned! Are you familiar with Lacanian psychoanalysis? If not, then what you are going to get out of this tome will be limited. Unfortunately, I think Zizek's exegesis of Lynch's film is one of the best and most interesting- so you may have to study up to get anything out of this...

For instance, Zizek talks frequently about The Real, The Imaginary, The Symbolic, The Fantasy, Transversing the Fantasy, Perversion, The Name of the Father, etc. If you don't know what these terms are, you will not be able to just "figure it out" on the fly, because even "pervert" and "fantasy" are being used in technical ways which are different from their popular uses. For instance, a "pervert" is not someone who is horny all the time (though they may be, but that's beside the point), they are people who went through the stage of "alientation" but did not fully complete "seperation," and therefore have to supplement their lack of a fully completed "symbolic castration" by a bolstered "Imaginary." When this Imaginary loses its cohesion and begins to fail, the subject resorts to other strategies such as fetishism, masochism, or sadism.

The point here is this is really a book for Lacanians, and not for people who are just interested in Lynch. If you are the latter, you will probably just going to get disgusted and frustrated because Zizek is assuming a basic knowledege in this field. That being said, Zizek is still one of the most entertaining and popular writers of Non-Essentialist Hegelian Lacanian Post-Marxism, and I found this book typical of his output.

To use a warfare simile (I am an American, after all), I would suggest that Zizek is less like a surgical strike, and more like a cluster bomb. In this book, which is forty odd pages, he only really writes about Lynch and the movie for a handful, talking about all kinds of other stuff as well, such as cyberspace, mexican soap operas, Spielberg, film Noir, Stalinism, Ideology, Totalitarianism. Zizek has mastered the art of the interesting digression like no other, except for perhaps Trstram Shandy from the Laurence Sterne novel. If you are familiar with Zizek, then you know the routine and probably love it- but for others wanting a clear and focused account of Lost Highway will be frustrated.

For a easier account of the same theory, watch the Zizek film The Pervert's Guide to Cinema where Zizek talks at length about Lynch and Lost Highway and gives an even clearer and more popular explanation of his idea(s). Its a great film and a good place to start with Zizek and even Lacanian psychoanalysis.

I have felt that sometimes Zizek's publishers (I am guessing it is his publishers), give his books misleading titles. For instance, the Zizek book Looking Awry: An Introduction to Jacques Lacan Using Popular Culture, I feel to be a terrible introduction to Lacan and Lacanian theory. Its a good book, but not as an intrduction to Lacan. Likewise with this book, I feel like Zizek just wrote a book which had a sizable chunk dedicated to Lynch and therefore they decided to name Lynch in the title. It is a bit misleading, but if you already read Zizek you won't care.

Really, the best thing about the book and Lacan's theory about the movie is how it makes clear a "part" of Lacanian theory, namely how "fantasy" functions. There is some other good stuff here which I have found really useful, such as a discussion of how "systems" usually function on two levels- an ego ideal level and a superego level, which mean that they simultaneously give contradictory "orders" and therefore the best way to bring a system down is to follow it to the letter of the law. I spent some time with a friend coming up with all kinds of examples and the model seems to work very well.

In any case, if you are a Zizek fan and a Lynch fan, check this out. Otherwise perhaps read The Impossible David Lynch by Todd McGowan which is also Lacanian but much clearer and more concise, and also film The Pervert's Guide to Cinema which can be bought online.

5-0 out of 5 stars Entertaining, illuminating, cogent
This is an excellent examination of David Lynch's "Lost Highway". It is absolutely crucial that one approaches this text with some background on a) Jacques Lacan or b) postmodern philosophy, specifically, Derrida and Baudrillard. If you are familiar with both, that's even better. When I read this book, I had a solid understanding of postmodernism, but a fairly tenuous grasp on Lacanian psychoanalysis, most of which was from Zizek's own "Enjoy Your Symptom! Jacques Lacan in Hollywood and Out". The book was perfectly understandable and cogent throughout, if you excuse the occasional digression. Without an understanding of Lacan or postmodernism, this book is sure to be difficult and obscure as many of the previous reviewers will attest. It is, however, by no means unclear or impenetrable. Zizek is perfectly lucid, IF you have the proper background. Don't expect him to explain Lacan in a 48 page paperback.

As for Zizek's reading of Lost Highway, you will ultimately decide for yourself. I found it illuminating. Sure, the Jungian reading fits really well, but isn't that a bit too easy? Lynch is operating on so many levels simultaneously, so why would he tell a simple story of soul transmigration? The Jungian reading ignores Lynch's other works, such as "Mulholland Drive" and "Blue Velvet". When one examines Lynch's oeuvre, Zizek's analysis begins to make more and more sense.

There are a couple noteworthy issues. Lost Highway, at times, feels more like a pretext for Zizek to offer yet another example of Lacanian psychoanalytical technique rather than a book devoted to Lynch's film. Is this a problem? Not necessarily. It depends on what you're looking for. One reviewer alleges that Zizek mixes up certain diegetic elements (mostly names and places). I did not find this to be true. I've seen Lost Highway at least ten times and I didn't notice any errors. Finally, the book itself is extremely brief. If you're hoping for a really in-depth examination, you may be disappointed. Overall, I found the book to be a very enjoyable, entertaining, and informative read.

1-0 out of 5 stars Huh??
I'm a college graduate and I've been told I'm at least somewhat intelligent, but I have to admit I didn't get this book at all.I even did some research on Lacan and Zizek in hopes that would help, but I'm still lost.Better luck to anyone else, because this book did nothing to help me understand Lost Highway, Lynch, or Zizek.A waste of my time and money.

1-0 out of 5 stars Ridiculous, but hardly sublime
Probably the most hilarious interpretation of David Lynch ever written, and I'm pretty interested in wondering how Lynch himself would feel if he noticed that his art has been hijacked by the post-modern academic elite.Actually, Martha Notchimson's "Passion of David Lynch" probably got Lynch down better than any of his critics, but to reduce her interpretations to New Agism is really just an exemplification of fringe criticism's dread of Jungian thought in the first place - not that Lynch is a Jungian, but he is all about transcendental meditation and reincarnation, and his pictures seem to have a similar spiritual center and energy.Zizek is extremely intelligent, but ultimately he's fishing for minnows while sitting on a whale.If you interpret Lynch in regards to a system (Lacanian for instance) instead of humanity, you end up with what Lynch would probably call "phoney baloney".

3-0 out of 5 stars Intelligent but cockeyed
This is my first exposure to the work of Slavoj Zizek, but it probably will not be my last.Undeniably studied, Zizek is able to write with an unusual fusion of irreverent pop-cultural wit and stuffy intellectual jargon.That makes this breezy (43 page) study easy to read and profoundly deep at the same time.But don't mistake "profoundly deep" for "profoundly revealing" or "profoundly correct", as it is none of the above.

A self-proclaimed Lacanian, Zizek makes a case for an anti-Fruedian, anti-Jungianpsychoanalytic interpretation of what is perhaps David Lynch's most obscure feature film since Eraserhead.As published on Amazon.com and elsewhere, I prefer a Jungian interpretation of Lost Highway, and for good reason:it fits extremely well.To deny this is to deny the evidence of one's own eyes.

All the same, Zizek's intellect is beyond dispute, and his reading of Lost Highway should be of great interest to film theorists and serious David Lynch fans alike. ... Read more

16. The Sublime Object of Ideology (Second Edition)(The Essential Zizek)
by Slavoj Zizek
Paperback: 272 Pages (2009-01-05)
list price: US$22.95 -- used & new: US$13.32
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Asin: 1844673006
Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars
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The Sublime Object ofIdeology: Slavoj Zizek's first book is aprovocative and original work looking at thequestion of human agency in a postmodern world.In a thrilling tour de force that made his name, he explores the ideological fantasies ofwholeness and exclusion which make up humansociety.Slavoj Zizek, the maverick philosopher, author of over 30 books, acclaimed as the "Elvis ofcultural theory", and today's mostcontroversial public intellectual. His worktraverses the fields of philosophy,psychoanalysis, theology, history and politicaltheory, taking in film, popular culture,literature and jokes—all to provide acuteanalyses of the complexities of contemporaryideology as well as a serious and sophisticatedphilosophy. His recent films The Pervert'sGuide to the Cinema and Zizek!reveal a theorist at the peak of his powers anda skilled communicator. Now Verso is making hisclassic titles, each of which stand as a core of his ever-expanding life's work, available as new editions. Each is beautifully re-packaged,including new introductions from Zizek himself.Simply put, they are the essential texts forunderstanding Zizek's thought and thuscornerstones of contemporary philosophy. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (5)

1-0 out of 5 stars The emperor has no clothes.
You'll learn much more by reading Marx, Freud, Hegel, Lacan, and Althusser than by reading this garbled, lurching effort at a synthesis of them.Zizek says nothing significant that has not been said before by others.Perhaps what some people find appealing is the knowing, self-important tone in which he makes his unoriginal pronouncements.

5-0 out of 5 stars The Real Deal
This was his breakthrough book that led to him becoming an internationally recognised thinker who consistently brings complex philosophical/psychoanalytical concepts into the spotlight.

Anyone with any pretensions to being philosphically inclined should welcome the legions of new readers Zizek has attracted to such difficult writers such as Kant, Hegel, Schelling etc.

I think knee-jerk reactions that use phrases such as "charlatan" reveal more about the accuser than the accused. It's also rather surprising that such an allegedly "obfuscatory" writer should sell books in such large quantities to non-specialists who somehow manage to engage with his ideas with gusto.

There are plenty of reasons to disagree with Zizek, but to claim there is nothing behind his work can perhaps best be explained by the concept of negative transference???

5-0 out of 5 stars The Sublime Object Of Ideology
This is where it all began for Zizek, and I would say that this really remains his best book. It is certainly the most useful of all of his texts, alongside The Ticklish Subject, as well as being the most organized of them all. It is here that Zizek provides his fullest exposition of his method, demystifying in the process a series of misconceptions regarding Marx and Freud. Central to this text is his reclamation of Freud from the devastating critique of Deleuze & Guattari (Capitalism & Schizophrenia). If you remember, Deleuze & Guattari's objection to Freud lay in his fetishization of the dream's `latent (Oedipal) content' over its formal, machinic assemblage- what results is an occlusion of the dream's subversive socio-political content, foreclosing the productive power of the unconscious by quarantining it in the familial triangle. Hence the persistent opposition of asignifying `desiring-production' to mythological `expression'. Zizek, in his reading of The Interpretation Of Dreams, reveals the structural homology of Freud and Marx- Marx, in his conception of `commodity fetish', is close to the Freudian problematic of the dream. In both, the question is a strictly formalist one: why does the dream/commodity assume this determinate form and not another? This is the guiding question of Zizek's materialist critique- how do specific ideologies `quilt' and constitute themselves? How does a symbolic field mask its Real (the immanent gap that prevents it from closing in on itself) through fantasmatic (Imaginary) displacements? Why are such displacements necessary, if an ideology is to hide the irrepressible antagonism that lies at its core? Is the postmodern annunciation of the `end of ideology' the consummate expression of ideology, its ultimate historical realization? Take it from me, this is worth your time.

4-0 out of 5 stars Zizek's First Philosophical Book in English
This is the first and possibly the last book of philosophy by Slavoj Zizek. In contrast to many of his other published works, which mainly consist of collections of essays bundled together in a single volume under a provocative preface, this is a book written with a purpose, and it constitutes a coherent whole. The aim of the book is stated at the outset. I quote:

"- to serve as an introduction to the fundamental concepts of Lacanian psychoanalysis: against the distorted picture of Lacan as belonging to the field of 'post-structuralism', the book articulates his radical break with 'post-structuralism'; against the distorted picture of Lacan's obscurantism, it locates him in the lineage of rationalism. Lacanian theory is perhaps the most radical contemporary version of the Enlightenment.

- to accomplish a kind of 'return to Hegel' - to reactualize Hegelian dialectics by giving it a new reading on the basis of Lacanian psychoanalysis. The current image of Hegel as an 'idealist-monist' is totally misleading: what we find in Hegel is the strongest affirmation yet of difference and contingency - 'absolute knowledge' itself is nothing but a name for the acknowledgement of a certain radical loss.

- to contribute to the theory of ideology viaa new reading of some well-known, classical motifs (commodity fetishism, and so on) and of some crucial Lacanian concepts which, on a first approach, have nothing to offer to the theory of ideology: the 'quilting point' (le point de capiton: 'upholstery button'), sublime object, surplus-enjoyment, and so on."

The Sublime Object of Ideology is the first book that Zizek published in English. It hints toward the fact that Zizek had already published essays in other languages, although these maiden works are not included in his official bibliography. The Sublime Object refers to an earlier work in French (Le plus sublime des hysteriques: Hegel passe) and discusses books or articles published by other scholars in German (in the Slovenian-Austrian Journal Wo Es War) as well as in French and in English.

It is, in a way, a work in progress: it retains the atmosphere of the lecture or the seminar, with flashes of brilliance and the flowering of ideas that can only emerge through an oral presentation. References to conversations with Ernesto Laclau or to the unpublished seminar of Jacques-Alain Miller add to Zizek's book a sense of urgency, an impression of witnessing the process of thought in the making. It is, one should note, written in flawless English, with no Continental Europe idiosyncrasies other than the occasional quote in French or in German. There is no reference to Slovenia as a nation or to Slovenian as a language, although one finds several mentions of Yugoslavia as a unitary whole. The book was published in 1989. Slovenia declared its independence on 25 June 1991.

In The Sublime Object of Ideology, Zizek provokes short-circuits and cross-readings between four authors: Hegel, Lacan, Marx, and Kant. Hs stated goal is to "rehabilitate psychoanalysis in its philosophical hardcore - as a theory indebted to Hegel's dialectics and readable only against this background." Reading Hegel through Lacan, he develops an original perspective on Hegelian dialectics. Far from being a story of the progressive overcoming of all antagonisms, dialectics is for Hegel a systematic notation of the failure of such attempts - the point is not to 'resolve' antagonisms, but simply to enact a parallax shift by means of which antagonisms are recognized 'as such' and thereby perceived in their 'positive' role.

Marx and psychoanalysis are brought together under the sign of commodity fetishism. In Marxism a fetish conceals the positive network of social relations ("a relation between men assumes the form of a relation between things"), whereas in Lacan a fetish conceals the lack ('castration') around which the symbolic network is articulated. Lacan coined the notion of surplus-enjoyment on the model of the Marxian notion of surplus-value. Zizek draws interesting parallels between the analysis of commodity and the interpretation of dreams, between fetishism and desire, or between the reification of money and the Lacanian objet petit a, the leftover which embodies the fundamental constitutive lack.

The passage from Kant to Hegel and Lacan takes place in the analysis of the sublime object that gives its name to the book. Kant defines the Sublime as being 'beyond the pleasure principle', as a paradoxical pleasure procured by displeasure itself - this is the definition of enjoyment by Lacan. By reading Kant with Sade, Lacan identifies the Sadeian hero as someone who is guided by fundamental principles, beyond the pleasure principle, and not just by the search for pleasure or material gain. The hero who choses evil reaches the sublime, and so does the victim who can endure any torment and still retain her immaculate beauty. Lacan thus defines the sublime object as 'an object raised to the level of the (impossible-real) Thing',an object which occupies the empty place of the Thing as the void, as the pure Nothing of absolute negativity.

In this first essay in English, not only does Zizek exposes the philosophical ideas that are to form the matter of his subsequent books, but he also introduces the examples, stories and quips that once again encounters in his later works. The only element that is missing is his political militancy, which may date from the disappearance of Yugoslavia as a nation, or from his encounter with Alain Badiou. The Sublime Object gives you access to the original Zizek; the rest, as they say, is repetition.

1-0 out of 5 stars All of the philosophers hated it.
I read this book in an inter-disciplinary reading group (folks from Philosophy, English, Political Science, Psychology, and others).It was very frustrating; the book bordered on making sense for hundreds of pages, but the majority of the group felt that we could not quite grasp his main concepts.The philosophers in the group were all sympathetic to the so-called `Continental tradition' (e.g., Marx, Sartre, Nietzsche, Heidegger), but we all finally decided that Zizek is a charlatan who gives philosophy a bad name.Much of the book is nonsense - by which I mean unintelligible, Sokal-esque garbage.For example - we worked very hard to understand what he means by the Lacanian Real, but in the end had to give up.Here is a partial list of his claims about the Real:the Real is pure negativity, a void; the Real is pure positivity, fullness; the Real is the basis of the symbolic order; the Real is a "determinate nothing," the Real is a hard kernel; the Real is not a hard kernel; the Real is desire; the Real does not exist; the Real is structured by the symbolic order.What can you do with a list like that except give up on the book and warn others? ... Read more

17. Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Lacan (But Were Afraid to Ask Hitchcock) (New and Updated Edition)
Paperback: 304 Pages (2010-08-03)
list price: US$26.95 -- used & new: US$16.47
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Asin: 1844676218
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Hitchcock gets onto the analyst’s couch in this extraordinary volume of case studies.Hitchcock gets onto the analyst’s couch in this extraordinary volume of case studies. The contributors bring to bear an unrivaled enthusiasm and theoretical sweep on the entire Hitchcock oeuvre, analyzing movies such as Rear Window and Psycho. Starting from the premise that ‘everything has meaning,’ the authors examine the films’ ostensible narrative content and formal procedures to discover a rich proliferation of hidden ideological and psychic mechanisms. But Hitchcock is also a bait to lure the reader into a serious Marxist and Lacanian exploration of the construction of meaning.

An extraordinary landmark in Hitchcock studies, this new edition features a brand-new essay by philosopher Slavoj Žižek, presenter of Sophie Fiennes’s three-part documentary The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema.

Contributors: Pascal Bonitzer, Miran Božovič, Michel Chion, Mladen Dolar, Fredric Jameson, Stojan Pelko, Renata Salecl, Alenka Zupančič and Slavoj Žižek. ... Read more

18. For They Know Not What They Do: Enjoyment as a Political Factor (Radical Thinkers)
by Slavoj Zizek
Paperback: 288 Pages (2008-01-17)
list price: US$14.95 -- used & new: US$8.52
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Asin: 1844672123
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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The eminent philosopher explodes the roles of pleasure and desire in contemporary politics and culture.Psychoanalysisis less merciful than Christianity. Where God the Father forgives ourignorance, psychoanalysis holds out no such hope. Ignorance is not asufficient ground for forgiveness since it masks enjoyment; anenjoyment which erupts in those black holes in our symbolic universethat escape the Father's prohibition.

Today,with the disintegration of state socialism, we are witnessing thiseruption of enjoymnet in the re-emergence of aggressive nationalism andracism. With the lid of repression lifted, the desires that haveemerged are far from democratic. To explain this apparent paradox,says Slavoj Zizek, socialist critical thought must turn topsychoanalysis.

For They Know Not What They Doseeks to understand the status of enjoyment within ideologicaldiscourse, from Hegel through Lacan to these political and ideologicaldeadlocks. The author's own enjoyment of “popular culture” makes thisan engaging and lucid exposition, in which Hegel joins hands withRossellini, Marx with Hitchcock, Lacan with Frankenstein, high theorywith Hollywood melodrama.

... Read more

Customer Reviews (1)

4-0 out of 5 stars Zizek's "Return to Hegel"
If Lacan construed his work as a precise "Return to Freud"--that is to say as a rigorous re-reading of Freud's writings and a demanding articulation of Freudian concepts and a re-animation of Freudian inspiration--then "For they know not what they do" makes the most solid case of Zizek's work performing a homologous "Return to Hegel". This book, like The Sublime Object of Ideology (Phronesis), circulates among three broad theoretical centers of gravity--Hegel, Lacan, and the critique of ideology. By Zizek's own estimation (in the introduction) it is the Lacanian pole that provides the "specific illumination that bathes all else in its light" (I'm paraphrasing, as I don't have the book in front of me)--which may be true. However even a cursory glance through the book's pages reveals that it is Hegel that provides the most abundant reference, and that Zizek is here engaged in a precise re-reading and explication of Hegel's conceptual apparatus and categories. On almost every page of this text we find formulations of this sort: "Contrary to the received doxa on Hegel..." or "This crucial mis-reading of Hegel that we must be careful to avoid is...". This book then, provides some of Zizek's most sustained elucidation of the Hegelian concepts, logics, categories, and topoi that Zizek repeatedly deploys constantly throughout the rest of his considerable oeuvre. Thus, if you are not already an accomplished Hegelian scholar, this is probably one of the most useful (if dense) and underrated works of Zizek to read for an overall understanding of the use Zizek makes of Hegel.

In Zizek!, he claims that his three best (and most theoretically important) works are: The Sublime Object of Ideology (Phronesis), Tarrying with the Negative: Kant, Hegel, and the Critique of Ideology (Post-Contemporary Interventions), The Ticklish Subject: The Absent Centre of Political Ontology, and The Parallax View (Short Circuits). If these then constitute the high water marks of Zizek's corpus, then "For they know not what they do", situated as it is between "The Sublime Object" and "Tarrying with the Negative" (chronologically speaking), serves as a sort of "vanishing mediator" (a theoretical concept frequently employed by Zizek that received its first articulation here) between those two works. The theoretical work undertaken by Zizek in this book is crucial to understanding much of what he has done subsequently and makes it a vital companion to "The Sublime Object"--or as Zizek himself puts it in the preface to the second edition of this book, "Those who won't speak about 'For they know not what they do' should also remain silent about 'The Sublime Object'."

If there is one (minor) disappointment here, it is that the analysis promised by the books subtitle ("Enjoyment as a Political Factor") never quite fully materializes in this work and remains in a certain sense deferred--one has to wait until the final chapter of "Tarrying with the Negative", where Zizek condenses many of the insights he reaches in this work into an incisive and concise analysis of the functioning of enjoyment (Lacanian jouissance) in political contexts (especially apropos of the then contemporary turmoil in the Balkan states, Zizek's home). Other than that minor quibble, "For they know not what they do" remains an essential moment in Zizek's body of work, crucial for understanding many concepts he deploys in later works, especially as regards his reading of Hegel. For anyone seriously grappling with Zizek's place on the contemporary theoretical scene, this book is a must read. ... Read more

19. How to Read Lacan (How to Read)
by Slavoj Zizek
Paperback: 144 Pages (2007-01-17)
list price: US$13.95 -- used & new: US$7.69
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Asin: 0393329550
Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars
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“The only thing of which one can be guilty of is having given ground relative to one’s desire.”—Jacques Lacan
The How to Read series provides a context and an explanation that will facilitate and enrich your understanding of texts vital to the canon. These books use excerpts from the major texts to explain essential topics, such as Jacques Lacan's core ideas about enjoyment, which re-created our concept of psychoanalysis.

Lacan’s motto of the ethics of psychoanalysis involves a profound paradox. Traditionally, psychoanalysis was expected to allow the patient to overcome the obstacles which prevented access to "normal" sexual enjoyment; today, however, we are bombarded by different versions of the injunction "Enjoy!" Psychoanalysis is the only discourse in which you are allowed not to enjoy.

Slavoj Žižek’s passionate defense of Lacan reasserts Lacan’s ethical urgency. For Lacan, psychoanalysis is a procedure of reading and each chapter reads a passage from Lacan as a tool to interpret another text from philosophy, art or popular ideology. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (6)

3-0 out of 5 stars How To Read Zizek Reading Himself Reading Lacan
The book effectively treats readers to more of Zizek himself than the French psycho-analyst. So from the start I'd recommend the Lacan enthusiast/beginner to look somewhere else (and then later come back to this work).

Still, in line with the whole series, the chapters are short, thus providing explanations, anecdotes, stories and jokes in summarized form, too. Also, if you've ever read a Zizek book you'll know how messy and (oftentimes) incoherent his writing can be; this book at least has the topics more or less clearly spelled out (even then one has to carefully comb most paragraphs with a marker), making it easier to not only comprehend what Zizek is saying but to categorise it all as well.

A bonus about reading this book is that it covers almost all the key Lacanian ideas that Zizek invariably repeats and reapplies in his other books; one could even say that, conceptually, every Zizek book diverges no more than 20-30% from any other one because they're mostly about contemporizing, applying and refreshing Lacan anyway. This book explains the symbolic order, the 'lamella', the site of the Real (one and the smae with the screen which filters out the Real - go figure), hyper non-activity (or extreme passivity masquerading as activity), the subject supposed to know/believe/enjoy, libidinal investments, fantasy as escape from the world, etc. - all of these and many more are given a concise treatment which also serves as a sweet taster of what to expect in Zizek's other phone-book sized publications.

Ultimately, one has to wonder: Is Zizek's Lacanianism dependent on his Marxism or the other way around? (My guess is that he would say the question is wrongly phrased and 'blocks' the truth of his intellectual orientation)

Still, there are few (if any) better Zizek-written introductions to his own work - ironic, as this book wasn't really supposed to be about him in the first place(!). This might echo his notion that in order to look carefully at an author one needs to look 'sideways' (or, in this case, via a book about someone else). The end-product is a snapshot of Zizekian views which are themselves based on Lacan's strangest theories. In a word, we're really reading Zizek reading himself reading his mentor.

2-0 out of 5 stars for armchair enthusiasts, not clinicians
I find Lacan's own writings about "theory" irritating and impenetrable, as do many others (although there are fans who maintain that the barriers are worth penetrating). I bought this book hoping to learn something, finally, about Lacan's CLINICAL methodology and technique, but Zizek early in the book says he will not consider this aspect of Lacan's work -- maybe because there is none? or Zizek doesn't understand it? All we get is more armchair theorizing and explanations thereof. Disappointing.

3-0 out of 5 stars accessible read
Accessible book, possibly a good start to read about Lacan (or Zizek himself who is very present, title could also have been 'How to Read Zizek using Lacan').

5-0 out of 5 stars Big Other is watching you.
Language is a pre-existing, social construct. For anyone who wants to truly say something new, there exists a conundrum: how strictly will I adhere to pre-existing forms, at the expense of breaking away from what has already been said?

In other words, how much emphasis do I want to put on making myself comprehensible to others? For Lacan, it seems, the answer was essentially "screw it. I'm going to forge ahead as far as I can, and I'll leave it to other people to figure out what I meant".

Principal among those 'other people' who have taken up the task is Slavoj Zizek. An important thing to note about this book is that Zizek doesn't instruct the reader on how to decipher the writings of Lacan. In fact, they're barely mentioned. Rather, he gives an overview of Lacan's thought, and shows how his ideas can be applied to every day situations. Which is to say, he gives a series of classic (and sometimes recycled) Zizek anecdotes and pop culture analyses.

As another reviewer noted, one definitely gets the sense in reading this book that there's a lot more Slavoj Zizek here than Jacques Lacan. In my opinion, however, that's a good thing.

4-0 out of 5 stars The Unconscious Un-idea
As an historian of ideas I have sought a methodology beneath and beyond ideational analysis, identifying the presuppositions of our ideas. It was not until reading a review of several books by Slavoj Zizek several months ago that I begin to realize that this task is the life work of Jacques Lacan (1901-81).

Zizek's HOW TO READ LACAN is an insightful introduction to realities that escape our conscious awareness, resting deep beneath geologic layers of symbolic pretensions.With a double doctorate in both philosophy and pyschoanalysis, Zizek is especially qualified to introduce us to Lacan's work, arguably the most renowned psychoanalyst since Sigmund Freud.

Not sharing Zizek's expertise in popular culture, this reviewer is not qualified to give HOW TO READ LACAN five stars.And yet, while enabling us to probe more deeply the microscopic dimensions of our daily lives, Zizek's reading of Lacan also empowers us to understand and stand under the macroscopic dimensions of geopolitics on the fragile planet that is our home.

An instance of this reading is Zizek's interpretation of Donald Rumsfeld's March 2003 rendition of 1) known knowns, 2) known unknowns and 3) unknown unknowns.Zizek continutes that what Rumsfeld "forgot to add was the crucial fourth term:the 'unknown knowns,' things we don't know that we know -- which is precisely the Freudian unconscious, the 'knowledge that doesn't know itself,' as Lacan use to say, the core of which is fantasy."These 'unknown knowns,' Zizek continues, are "the disavowed beliefs and suppositions we are not even aware of adhering to ourselves, but which nonetheless determine our acts and feelings." ... Read more

20. The Neighbor: Three Inquiries in Political Theology (Religion and Postmodernism Series)
by Slavoj Zizek, Eric L. Santner, Kenneth Reinhard
Paperback: 240 Pages (2006-02-14)
list price: US$21.00 -- used & new: US$14.97
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Asin: 0226707393
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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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.
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5-0 out of 5 stars Jesus replied...
To the question, "Which part of God's Law is the highest?" Jesus famously replies: "You shall love the Lord your God...and the second, which is like the first, you shall love your neighbor as yourself!" The first part of Jesus's reply is understandable: okay, we should love God, got it. But then he adds this second part: love your neighbor! Neighbor?! Who is that? Why should I love him? And why as myself? This basically summarizes Sigmund Freud's response to the Judeo-Christian ethic of neighborly love.
In this fabulous work three psychoanalytic commentators take as their basic point of departure this response of Freud's to develop the groundwork for a politics of the neighbor. The other point of reference here is Carl Schmitt's friend/enemy politics. The neighbor being a third overlooked category that is neither a friend nor an enemy.
If you are interested in political theology, then, you should pick up this book. But the real gem of this book is Kenneth Reinhard's contribution. I believe you can find Zizek's and Santner's contributions in other works, but Reinhard's is original. But it is original in the sense of novel: I think Reinhard provides the most comprehensive look at what a politics of the neighbor might look like. I get the feeling that Reinhard is providing here a short synopsis of a larger political theology of the neighbor, and if so, I cannot wait for it to come out! ... Read more

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