Real Materialism


[h/t Nick] Review of Žižek’s Parallax and In Defence of Lost Causes from Jodi Dean here.

Žižek uses the parallax gap both to explore Hegelian concrete universality and to revise some key Lacanian categories. Concrete universality does not refer to a universal core or essence animating its particular forms of appearance. Rather, concrete universality persists in the unsurpassable gaps between these forms, in their noncoincidence and struggle. The Universal, then, “names the site of a Problem-Deadlock, of a burning Question, and the Particulars are attempted but failed Answers to this problem” (35). For example, the concept of the State names the problem of how to contain the antagonism that underlies and generates society. Particular states are particular solutions. Christianity likewise names a struggling universality, one formulated from the position of the excluded which thereby splits substantial identities.

Makes me want to go read the book again…

Žižek’s New Book: In Defense Of Lost Causes.


Terry Eagleton reviews Žižek’s new book:

The self-consciously outrageous case the book has to argue is that there is a “redemptive” moment to be plucked from such failed revolutionary ventures as Jacobinism, Leninism, Stalinism and Maoism. Žižek is by no means a champion of political terror: the Mao he offers us here, for example, is the mass murderer who mused that “half of China may have to die” in the Great Leap Forward, and who remarked that though a nuclear war might blow a hole in the planet, it would leave the cosmos largely untouched. His aim is not to justify such demented views, but to make things harder for the typical liberal middle-class dismissal of them. In pursuing this goal, the book offers us a wealth of political and philosophical insight; but it is not at all clear that it validates its central thesis. […]

It is not the nave of its central thesis which makes this book so compelling, but its side chapels. Slavoj Žižek, as usual, seems gratifyingly unable to remember what case he has just been pursuing, and there are some splendid digressions, including an account of the changing role of the scherzo in Shostakovich, a disquisition on Schiller’s “Ode to Joy”, and reflections on Eisenstein’s lost masterpieces. In Defense of Lost Causes is a frenetic, eclectic parody of intellectual scholarship, by one so assured in his grasp of the finer points of Kafka or John le Carré that he can afford to ham it up a little. Read the whole thing.

I did buy Parallax View when it came out, but I think I only used it as a reference guide to see what Žižek had to say about certain subjects – I’m not sure if I could read it all the way through. Should I buy this new one or is Žižek’s fame slowly fading away and I no longer need to familiarize myself with his ever-increasing body of work to stay “hip”?