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Did Somebody Say Totalitarianism?: Four Interventions in the (Mis)Use of a Notion

Overview

In some circles, a nod towards totalitarianism is enough to dismiss any critique of the status quo. Such is the insidiousness of the neo-liberal ideology, argues Slavoj Žižek. Did Somebody Say Totalitarianism? turns a specious rhetorical strategy on its head to identify a network of family resemblances between totalitarianism and modern liberal democracy. Žižek argues that totalitarianism is invariably defined in terms of four things: the Holocaust as the ultimate, diabolical evil; the Stalinist gulag as the...

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Did Somebody Say Totalitarianism?: 5 Interventions in the (Mis)Use of a Notion

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Overview

In some circles, a nod towards totalitarianism is enough to dismiss any critique of the status quo. Such is the insidiousness of the neo-liberal ideology, argues Slavoj Žižek. Did Somebody Say Totalitarianism? turns a specious rhetorical strategy on its head to identify a network of family resemblances between totalitarianism and modern liberal democracy. Žižek argues that totalitarianism is invariably defined in terms of four things: the Holocaust as the ultimate, diabolical evil; the Stalinist gulag as the alleged truth of the socialist revolutionary project; ethnic and religious fundamentalisms, which are to be fought through multiculturalist tolerance; and the deconstructionist idea that the ultimate root of totalitarianism is the ontological closure of thought. Žižek concludes that the devil lies not so much in the detail but in what enables the very designation totalitarian: the liberal-democratic consensus itself.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“The ferociously productive Slovenian philosopher now takes up one of those heavy, predictable, unpromising topics—totalitarianism—and manages to produce a whirling carnival of political critique, cultural interpretations, and ornery bombast.”—New Political Science

“As an alternative to the current post-modernist cult of cynicism and retreat into islands of privacy and nihilism ... the five essays making up Did Somebody Say Totalitarianism? insist on the social link and offer the visionary strength for resistance against all forms of totalized explanations.”—World Literature Today

“This attempt to rethink the conditions of radical political action is one of a number of signs that, after the doldrums of the 1980s and 1990s, left-wing thought is beginning to revive. It will be fascinating to follow where the flood of eloquence and imagination next sweeps Slavoj Žižek.”—Times Literary Supplement

“Žižek is an entertaining writer who would command attention if he were just describing how to mix cement. He wastes no time in tilting at the taken-for-granted ... Žižek wants to find the cracks in the notion of totalitarianism and fill them with dynamite.”—Times Higher Education Supplement

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781844677139
  • Publisher: Verso Books
  • Publication date: 8/1/2011
  • Series: Essential Zizek Series
  • Edition description: Second Edition
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 674,876
  • Product dimensions: 5.10 (w) x 7.70 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Slavoj Žižek is a Slovenian philosopher and cultural critic. He 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 books include Living in the End Times, First as Tragedy, Then as Farce, In Defense of Lost Causes, four volumes of the Essential Žižek, and many more.

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Table of Contents

Introduction: On Ideological Antioxidants 1

1 The Myth and Its Vicissitudes 8

Hamlet before Oedipus

The birth of beauty out of the object

From comedy to tragedy

The myth of postmodernity

'Thrift, thrift, Horatio!'

Agape-The enigma of/in the Other

2 Hitler as Ironist? 61

Was the Holocaust diabolical Evil?

Laugh yourself to death!

The Muslim

Beneath tragedy and comedy

3 When the Party Commits Suicide 88

'The Power of the Powerless'

The Communist sacrifice

Stalin-Abraham against Bukharin-Isaac

Stalinist jouissance

Lenin versus Stalin

When discourse implodes

Excursus: Shostakovich and the resistance to Stalinism

The radical ambiguity of Stalinism

4 Melancholy and the Act 141

Lack is not the same as loss

'Post-secular thought?' No, thanks!

The Other: Imaginary, symbolic, and real

The ethical act: Beyond the reality principle

A plea for materialist creationism

The Pope Versus the Dalai Lama

John Woo as a critic of Levinas: The face as a fetish

5 Are Cultural Studies Really Totalitarian? 190

The burning question

The two Reals

The 'Third Culture' as ideology

The impasse of historicism-Theoretical state apparatuses

Conclusion: ?...and what are the destitute (totalitarians) for in a poetic timer?' 229

Notes 257

Index 273

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