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Did Somebody Say Totalitarianism?: 5 Interventions in the (Mis)Use of a Notion (The Essential Zizek) [Paperback]

by Slavoj Zizek
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

August 1, 2011 1844677133 978-1844677139 Second Edition
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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Did Somebody Say Totalitarianism?: 5 Interventions in the (Mis)Use of a Notion (The Essential Zizek) + Revolution at the Gates: Selected Writings of Lenin from 1917 (Essential Zizek)
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Editorial Reviews

Review

“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

About 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.

Product Details

  • Series: The Essential Zizek
  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Verso; Second Edition edition (August 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1844677133
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844677139
  • Product Dimensions: 7.7 x 5.1 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #877,360 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

"The most dangerous philosopher in the West," (says Adam Kirsch of The New Republic) Slavoj Zizek 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 "First as Tragedy, Then as Farce;" "Iraq: The Borrowed Kettle;" "In Defense of Lost Causes;" "Living in the End Times;" and many more.

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28 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An intensely searching evaluation and analysis November 8, 2002
Format:Paperback
Did Somebody Say Totalitarianism?: Five Interventions in the (Mis)use of a Notion is an intensely searching evaluation and analysis of precisely what totalitarianism is, and how the term has been misused -- particularly in twentieth century political science and philosophical discussions. Individual chapter sections address diverse, unusual, and controversial topics such as "The radical ambiguity of Stalinism"; "A plea for material creationism"; and "The Pope versus the Dalai Lama". Deviously written by Slavoj Zizek (Senior Researcher, Institute for Social Studies, Ljublijana) to unweave conundrums about the cross-purpose classification of totalitarian power and governance, Did Somebody Say Totalitarianism? is a complex, thought-provoking philosophical accounting and a highly recommended addition to academic Political Science and Philosophy Studies departmental reference collections and reading lists.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderfully illuminating. November 7, 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
"On the `Celestial Seasonings' green tea packet there is a short explanation of its benefits: `Green tea is a natural source of antioxidants, which neutralize harmful molecules in the body known as free radicals.' ...Is not the notion of totalitarianism one of the main ideological antioxidants, whose function throughout its career was to tame free radicals...?"

So begins Slavoj Zizek's book "Did Somebody Say Totalitarianism?" Yes, the prolific Slovenian thinker moves from green tea to totalitarianism in a single paragraph, further cementing his reputation for building theory from the most banal of everyday objects. In this 2001 effort, Zizek's central thesis, as promised in the book's introduction, goes something like this: challenging totalitarianism as such is no longer a very fruitful endeavor. Instead, we should challenge the very designation `totalitarian,' the very consensus within liberal democracy that immediately stifles any project which is accused of harboring even the faintest totalitarian strain. We are all familiar with a standard bourgeois response to any radical, emancipatory political project: "However benevolent your intentions, my good friend, you are aware of course that this will inevitable lead to the gulag?" By leveling the `totalitarian' accusation in this way, existing power structures diffuse any challenge to their hegemony.

Ah, but this is Zizek. Which means that as soon as his wildly erratic, aphoristic endeavor gets underway, the `central' thesis will only figure briefly and tangentially into the text. As with most of Zizek's work, however, you won't miss it terribly. "Did Somebody Say Totalitarianism?" is packed with insights, each illuminated by Zizek's incisive wit and masterful balancing of postmodern jargon with economy of phrase.
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1 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars interesting February 23, 2006
Format:Paperback
this is wonderful.i read it in one week.persuade readers to go on and on.
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15 of 71 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Incomprehensible April 20, 2004
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
I found this in the philosphy section of a local store and was intrigued by the timely theme and title. Nothing else proved commendable about this book. This is the sort of book that gives philosphy a bad name. A dense fog of jagron so abstract that it almost seems like a parody. I must admit I could not finish this book. I was barely able to penetrate the first two chapters. Several honest attempts to scan the rest of the book read like pure gibberish.
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