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First as Tragedy, Then as Farce Paperback – October 5, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. The charismatic and contentious Zizek (The Sublime Object of Ideology) turns his versatile intelligence and acute ear for irony to a critique of contemporary capitalism. Given the recent financial crisis, Zizek argues that it is now impossible to ignore the blatant irrationality of global capitalism. He sifts through recent history to reveal how capitalist ideology functions to defend the system against any serious critique, despite its manifest flaws. He draws a sharp line between liberalism and the radical left, showing how the socialization of the banks—and socialism itself—is actually aligned with the preservation of capitalism rather than inimical to it, and derides socially responsible ecocapitalism as another avatar of a bankrupt system. Zizek concludes with a new articulation of The Communist Hypothesis, setting socialism and communism as antagonists and presenting a utopian vision that relies on breaking out of the structures and strictures of statism and the markets. An earnest and timely challenge, Zizek's critique of capitalism and repositioning of communist thought is both insightful and well-reasoned, and guaranteed to rile readers across the political and theoretical spectrum. (Nov.)
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“Žižek leaves no social or cultural phenomenon untheorized, and is master of the counterintuitive observation.”—The New Yorker

“The Elvis of cultural theory.”—The Chronicle of Higher Education

“One of the most innovative and exciting contemporary thinkers of the left.”—Times Literary Supplement

“Žižek is an influential thinker, and this short book offers an excellent entry into his thought.”—David Gordon, Library Journal

“[A] great provocateur and an immensely suggestive and even dashing writer ... Žižek writes with passion and an aphoristic energy that is spellbinding.”—Richard Rayner, Los Angeles Times

“The most dangerous philosopher in the West.”—New Republic

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 158 pages
  • Publisher: Verso (October 5, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1844674282
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844674282
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #93,869 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.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 33 people found the following review helpful By M. C. Davis on November 24, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As a reader of Zizek most of this is covered in other books. In Defense of Lost Causes immediately comes to mind. But if you don't want to slough through a 500 page tome but want to look at the latest political reflections by Slavoj Zizek then this book is a good introduction.

Also of note, this may be one of the few books criticizing today's political Left that's by a Leftist(although albeit radical Marxist one)and as such is a better and more well rounded critique concerning the path of the Left. Zizek's style is for experienced readers, one cannot just simply walk into one of Zizek's books and expect the dry pedantic style that plagues much of contemporary academic reading. It takes some skill to recognize what Zizek is arguing, but once you find that hidden gem, you gain an insight into why the system crashed.
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63 of 81 people found the following review helpful By Nin Chan on October 12, 2009
Format: Paperback
This might very well be the best place to start if you're interested in the politics of this singular Slovenian philosopher. The prose here is as trenchant and as pellucid as it gets- it is clear that Zizek regards this polemic as a conjunctural intervention, and its topicality (much of the text deals with the current financial meltdown) is unparalleled in his oeuvre. Perhaps the closest parallel that one can draw is to Zizek's text on the Iraq War, Welcome to the Desert of the Real. This does mean, however, that one should not approach the text expecting to find a cursory sketch of Zizek's philosophy. Consider this to be an hors d'oeuvre of sorts. If you survive the naked forthrightness of Zizek's approach- his greatest challenge to our postmodern sensibilities lies in his uninhibited resolve to say what he means with a naïveté that is unprecedented since Nietzsche and Marx- you are already on the way to engaging with one of today's great provocateurs. The crucial point of the text lies in Zizek's classically Marxist assertion that, contrary to its (ideological) self-image as the embodiment of `objective reality' (capitalism as a pragmatic, time-tested formula that works in the `real world'), capitalism is, in fact, driven by a utopian fantasy of its own, the truth of which is revealed in crashes and meltdowns. The `crisis of the Left' lies in its incapacity to formulate a viable alternative, a crisis that must be overcome through commitment (allegiance to what Badiou has called the `communist hypothesis') and concerted hegemonic struggle.
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26 of 34 people found the following review helpful By noeton on November 18, 2009
Format: Paperback
This powerful little tract is Zizek at his best and without much of the adulteration many of his more popular books have with regard to the jokes and pop-culture anecdotes. Yet it is as engrossing as anything he's written. The gauntlet is cast. Recent events have only brought to the surface the potential for capitalism to run aground and the remarkable unity of the otherwise bickering elite when it comes to keeping the profit flowing. Zizek discusses these events and maps how ideology, ideology, ideology, is everywhere in this moment where purportedly all ideology (including Alan Greenspan's), seems to have been shaken to rubble, and the only thing in front of us is to take the "pragmatic" but painful steps necessary to restore the markets and restart the engines so everyone can get back to business as usual (remarkable how much cash is suddenly available when the banks can't balance their own checkbooks, as opposed to when people are starving en masse in Africa). In page after page the case for communism becomes terrifyingly reasonable. Whether you are "with him or against him," you can no longer ignore Zizek after taking a serious look at this really magnificently composed work that condenses his whole political perspective without quarter. Personally, I have long been on the fence about embracing all that Zizek represents and all the consequences of his position. But I cannot see how this one can be the butt of jokes except for those so ideologically mystified that they'd chuckle themselves to tears if they were to really sit down with open eyes. Verso cleverly printed at the top of the cover a quote from a New Republic article on Zizek. It simply states, "The most dangerous philosopher in the West.Read more ›
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13 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Witold on July 6, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Zizek delivers a chaotic collage of observations and adventurous speculations, while skillfully avoiding any conclusions to any of it. Some of the thinking might be even brilliant but, again, it leads nowhere. His pro-communist chapter is particularly disappointing in that regard; I was really interested in reading something more specific, a vision that would at least deserve some consideration. He wouldn't even define communism - after all, it does seem that if one wants to be a communist the term itself needs redefining... Zizek is a good showman, knows how to keep the reader glued to the page so the book is perfect for a 3-4 hour flight. Entertaining author with lots of potential. He just gets continuously lost in thousands of facts and semi-conclusions; his constant mixing of social thought with philosophy and psychoanalysis produces some sort of a salad bar situation. I think the "intellectual virtuoso" style is supposed to impress the reader but this kind of delivery will not sell for long if it doesn't improve. There is some knowledge here (academic and otherwise) and plenty of unorthodox thinking, but you will find no depth and no wisdom. Sorry.
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