NEW SLAVOJ ZIZEK BOOK FROM VERSO
In Defense of Lost Causes
Publication: May 2008
ISBN 978 1 84467 108 3 / 512 pages / $34.95 / £19.99
“The era of grand explanations is over; we should no longer aim at all-explaining systems and global emancipatory projects. … If the reader feels a minimum of sympathy with these lines, she should stop reading and cast aside this volume. This book is unashamedly committed to the ‘Messianic’ standpoint of the struggle for universal emancipation.” Slavoj Zizek
Is global emancipation a lost cause? Are universal values outdated relics of an earlier age? In fear of the horrors of totalitarianism should we submit ourselves to the reactionary third way of economic liberalism and government-as-administration?
In this combative major new work, philosophical sharpshooter Slavoj Zizek takes on the reigning ideology with a plea that we should re-appropriate several “lost causes,” and 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, Zizek suggests that these were the “right steps in the wrong direction.” He argues that while the revolutionary terror of Robespierre, Mao and the Bolsheviks ended in historic failure and monstrosity, this is not the whole story. There is, in fact, a redemptive moment that gets lost in the outright liberal-democratic rejection of revolutionary authoritarianism and the valorization of soft, consensual, decentralized politics.
Zizek claims that, particularly in the light of the forthcoming ecological crisis, we should reinvent revolutionary terror and the dictatorship of the proletariat in the struggle for universal emancipation. We need to courageously accept the return to this Cause – even if we court the risk of a catastrophic disaster. In the words of Samuel Beckett: “Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”
SLAVOJ ZIZEK’S DEMANDS:
“1) Strict egalitarian justice (all people should pay the same price in eventual renunciations, namely, one should impose the same world-wide norms of per capita energy consumption, carbon dioxide emissions, and so on; the developed nations should not be allowed to poison the environment at the present rate, blaming the developing Third World countries, from Brazil to China, for ruining our shared environment with their rapid development).
2) Terror (ruthless punishment of all who violate the imposed protective measures, inclusive of severe limitations on liberal “freedoms,” technological control of prospective law-breakers).
3) Voluntarism (the only way to confront the threat of ecological catastrophe is by means of large-scale collective decisions which run counter to the “spontaneous” immanent logic of capitalist development).
4) And, last but not least, all this combined with trust in the people (the wager that a large majority of the people supports these severe measures, see them as its own, and is ready to participate in their enforcement). One should not be afraid to assert, as a combination of terror and trust in the people, the reactivation of one of the figures of all egalitarian-revolutionary terrors, the “informer” who denounces the culprits to the authorities. (Already in the case of the Enron scandal, Time magazine was right to celebrate the insiders who tipped-off the financial authorities as true public heroes.)”
(FROM PAGE 461 OF 'IN DEFENSE OF LOST CAUSES')
PRAISE FOR SLAVOJ ZIZEK:
“Zizek leaves no social or cultural phenomenon untheorized, and is master of the counterintuitive observation” The New Yorker
“The giant of Ljubljana provides the best intellectual high since 'Anti-Oedipus'.” The Village Voice
“The Elvis of cultural theory.” Chronicle of Higher Education
“Unafraid of confrontation and with a near limitless grasp of pop symbolism” The Times
“Zizek is a thinker who regards nothing as outside his field: the result is deeply interesting and provocative.” The Guardian
“The most formidably brilliant exponent of psychoanalysis, indeed of cultural theory in general, to have emerged in many decades.” Terry Eagleton
“Zizek is one of the few living writers to combine theoretical rigor with compulsive readability.” Publishers Weekly
Slavoj Zizek is a professor at the European Graduate School, International Director of the Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities, Birkbeck College, University of London, and a senior researcher at the Institute of Sociology, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia. His other books from Verso include The Sublime Object of Ideology, For They Know Not What They Do, The Indivisible Remainder, The Ticklish Subject, Welcome to the Desert of the Real and The Fragile Absolute. He has also appeared in the films Žižek! and The Pervert’s Guide to the Cinema.
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