In Defense of Lost Causes

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Overview

In this combative, major new work, philosophical sharpshooter Slavoj ?i?ek 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, ?i?ek argues that while these struggles ended in historic failure...

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In Defense of Lost Causes

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Overview

In this combative, major new work, philosophical sharpshooter Slavoj Žižek 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, Žižek 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, Žižek argues the case for revolutionary terror and the dicatorship of the proletrariat. A return to past ideals is needed despite the risks. In the words of Samuel Beckett: "Try again. Fail again. Fail better."

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Editorial Reviews

David Schneider - Prospect
“Exhilarating, inspiring, thought-provoking.”
Steven Poole - The Guardian
“Addictively eclectic … He contrives to leave the reader, as usual, both exhilarated and disoriented, standing in the middle of a scorched plain strewn with the rubble of smashed idols.”
Terry Eagleton
“Outrageous, provocative and entertaining.”
Adam Kirsch - The New Republic
“The most dangerous philosopher in the West.”
Terry Eagleton - The Times Literary Supplement
“A wealth of political and philosophical insight.”
From the Publisher
“The most dangerous philosopher in the West.”—Adam Kirsch, The New Republic

“Addictively eclectic ... He contrives to leave the reader, as usual, both exhilarated and disoriented, standing in the middle of a scorched plain strewn with the rubble of smashed idols.”—Steven Poole, The Guardian

“A wealth of political and philosophical insight.”—Terry Eagleton, The Times Literary Supplement

“A monument to imaginative, risk-taking and rigorous scholarship.”—Times Higher Education Supplement

“Exhilarating, inspiring, thought-provoking.”—David Schneider, Prospect

“Outrageous, provocative and entertaining.”—Terry Eagleton

Times Higher Education Supplement
“A monument to imaginative, risk-taking and rigorous scholarship.”
Prospect
Exhilarating, inspiring, thought-provoking.— David Schneider
The Guardian
Addictively eclectic … He contrives to leave the reader, as usual, both exhilarated and disoriented, standing in the middle of a scorched plain strewn with the rubble of smashed idols.— Steven Poole
The New Republic
The most dangerous philosopher in the West.— Adam Kirsch
The Times Literary Supplement
A wealth of political and philosophical insight.— Terry Eagleton
Library Journal

Zizek (international director, Birkbeck Inst. for the Humanities, Univ. of London; sociology, Univ. of Ljubljana, Slovenia; The Fragile Absolute) writes with humor and incisiveness as he addresses the limits of liberal democratic approaches to politics and the possibility of benefit in totalitarian approaches to statehood. Examining by turns errors made by Martin Heidegger, Michel Foucault, Maximilien Robespierre, and other thinkers when faced with totalitarian missions, Zizek provides analysis by way of Jacques Lacan, literary deconstruction, and history's famously particular moments, such as the denouement of the the Cuban Missile Crisis. Scholars of political theory and modern philosophy will find much here to consider and argue for or against. In parts, the essays can also be used with upper-division undergraduate students. And because Zizek's work straddles the most contemporary 20th-century literature and history and is written with panache rather than in jargon, public libraries serving highly educated communities will want to add this as well.
—Francisca Goldsmith

New Yorker
Zizek leaves no social or cultural phenomenon untheorized, and is a master of the counterintuitive observation.
The Village Voice
The giant of Ljubljana provides the best intellectual high science since Anti-Oedipus.
Guardian
Zizek is a thinker who regards nothing as outside his field: the result is deeply interesting and provocative.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781844674299
  • Publisher: Verso Books
  • Publication date: 10/19/2009
  • Pages: 528
  • Sales rank: 687,143
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.10 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Table of Contents

Introduction Causa Locuta, Roma Finita 1

Pt. I The State of Things

1 Happiness and Torture in the Atonal World 11

2 The Family Myth of Ideology 52

3 Radical Intellectuals, or, Why Heidegger Took the Right Step (Albeit in the Wrong Direction) in 1933 95

Pt. II Lessons from the Past

4 Revolutionary Terror from Robespierre to Mao 157

5 Stalinism Revisited, or, How Stalin Saved the Humanity of Man 211

6 Why Populism is (Sometimes) Good Enough in Practice, but Not in Theory 264

Pt. III What is to Be Done?

7 The Crisis of Determinate Negation 337

8 Alain Badiou, or, the Violence of Subtraction 381

9 Unbehagen in der Natur 420

Notes 463

Index 493

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