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The Puppet and the Dwarf: The Perverse Core of Christianity (Short Circuits) Paperback – August 29, 2003
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With this book Žižek consolidates his reputation as the foremost intellectual gadfly of the postmodern cosmopolis. For anyone interested in the contemporary vogue of the 'theological turn' or theories of 'religion without God,' The Puppet and the Dwarf is indispensable reading...If Socrates underwent a ten-year analysis with Jacques Lacan, the result would be Slavoj Žižek.(Richard Wolin, Distinguished Professor of History and Comparative Literature, the Graduate Center, City University of New York)
A witty, informative trip...both erudite and accessible...(Rick Mitchell Leonardo Reviews)
His writing is bold, confident and contentious.(Julian Baggini The Philosopher's Magazine)
The Puppet and the Dwarf is Žižek's most compelling and passionate writing on Christianity to date.(Erik Davis Bookforum)
Quite possibly the most entertaining philosopher working today. Žižek knows how to think the unthinkable.(Jori Finkel Village Voice)
Slavoj Žižek may have the strongest 'brand identity'...of any cultural theorist now in the marketplace of ideas.(Scott McLemee The Chronicle of Higher Education)
Žižek is the first Marxist to write theology in a post-marxist, post-secular age.(Eugene McCarraher In These Times)
...Žižek mixes Pauline speculations with analyses of everything from G. K. Chesterton to chocolate eggs.(Terry Eagleton TLS)
Žižek rarely fails to entertain...(Library Journal)
About the Author
Slavoj Žižek, a philosopher and cultural critic, is Senior Researcher in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Ljubljana, Global Distinguished Professor of German at New York University, and International Director of the Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities at the University of London. He is the author of more than thirty books, including Looking Awry: An Introduction to Jacques Lacan through Popular Culture, The Puppet and the Dwarf: The Perverse Core of Christianity, The Parallax View, T he Monstrosity of Christ: Paradox or Dialectic (with John Milbank), and Žižek's Jokes (Did you hear the one about Hegel and negation?), these five published by the MIT Press.
Top customer reviews
The book is not so much about Christianity as it is about what Zizek claims to be the very core of it, where there is another dimension. And in discussing the core as such, the book takes off as a reading of the symbolic structure (Lacanian) that made it possible for the transition from Judaic Law to Christian Love; and St. Paul's role in it. Jesus' "Father why hast thou forsaken me?" is one of the loci of Zizek's defense of the "ex-timate" kernel of Christianity: 'Imitatio Christi' as sharing Jesus' own doubt -- not of God's existence but rather of His Impotence. And after taking some very general swipes at Buddhism for (supposedly) aiming for that state (Nirvana) in which all differences are leveled, Zizek presents the genius of Christianity as the religion of Difference in which the very separation between God and Man is God-as-Man. Zizek argues against the idea that the Fall and Redemption are polarities but that the Fall IS Redemption, the Opening of the very space of Redemption.
The crux of Zizek's "argument" boils down to what he says in the last page: "...It is possible today to redeem this core of Christianity only in the gesture of abandoning the shell of its institutional organization (and even more so, of its specific religious experience). The gap here is irreducible: either one drops the religious form, or one maintains the form but lose the essence. This is the ultimate heroic gesture that awaits Christianity: in order to save its treasure, it has to sacrifice itself -- like Christ, who had to die so that Christianity could emerge."
The basic attitude of the book is fueled by contempt for opportunistic liberals, academics, and intellectuals, in short, the Last Man, who drinks decaf and jogs to stay fit, and make a habit of demanding the highest ethical ideals from society KNOWING full well society cannot possibly deliver. Zizek's venom is aimed at the fact that this very impossibility allows intellectuals without any real moral commitment to wallow smug their safe, cushy university jobs and still feel good about themselves for having demonstrated a nobler social conscience: A life devoted to speaking dangerously with all the possibility of danger (and caffeine) removed.
Zizek's enlistment of G.K.Chesterton -- who was, himself, perverse enough to speak (and very convincingly too!) of the "Thrilling Romance of Orthodoxy" -- to kick off his argument is a brilliant move and that alone makes this book worth reading.
Read this book like it was a clearance sale where everything is 90% off: the only thing is, some very fine finds come attached to a lot of junk you don't need. So, keep the baby and throw out the bath water -- even if you know Zizek can convince you that it's really the bath water you should keep.
The only thing that allowed me to muddle through was a small familiarity with Nancy's Dis-Enclosure (which I've also been muddling through) and some of the thankful redundancies that appeared in their evaluations. The problem was that most of the language used in the book is hedged in stark psychoanalytic terms. Virtually nobody knows or understands these terms. Not even psychology majors are taught them anymore (although one could ostensibly argue that psychology majors aren't really taught anything anymore).
I came from an English Criticism background and had a very difficult time with everything and made markedly slow progress in the book. I'm not sure if Zizek's aim was to make Derrida seem like beach-reading, however this almost seems to be the case.
What you most likely will be able to take from this book if you are a layman is a grasp of some of the fundamental ironies of Christianity coupled with some poignent anecdotes to flush them out. I don't necessarily trust Zizek's epistemology with regards to his interpretation of scripture, however his observations give one pause.
I with I was more equipped to give a better reading and therefore elaborate on whether his psychoanalysis is accurate and bullet-proof or whether it is indeed bunk. HIs tendency to lampoon Derrida and pick petty fights along with his wholesale dismissal of Deconsructionism leads me to believe that he might be shooting from the hip with a few of his claims.
"One commonplace about philosophers today is that their very analysis of the hypocrisy of the dominant system betrays their naivety: why are they still shocked to see people inconsistently violate their professed values when it suits their interests? Do they really expect people to be consistent and principled? Here one should defend authentic philosophers: what surprises them in the exact opposite - not that people do not "really believe," and act upon their professed principles, but that people who profess their cynical distance and radical pragmatic opportunism secretly believe much more than they are willing to admit, even if they transpose these beliefs onto (nonexistent) "others."" Slavoj Zizek, from The Puppet and the Dwarf: The Perverse Core of Christianity, p 8
Zizek is fun to read, and in the this book he spikes into the red of the fun meter. Whether you like Lacan, or can even pretend to understand Lacan, Zizek is good at explaining what he thinks Lacan means to express. Besides that, this book tackles a few more topics which make it worth your time - like the victim culture in politics and academia, where the victim is given a privileged position and a sort of super-authority - he sites all kinds of problems with this practice. He also gets into Biblical stuff, walking around the same terrain as Jung did when writing about Job (old-testament story which basically states that there is no personal God), and Jesus's moment of doubt on the Cross. Extremely interesting reading. Well worth the time and money.