25 September 2010

Book: In Defense of Lost Causes

Slavoj Žižek, "In Defense of Lost Causes" (Verso, 2008):


Publisher's description: "In this combative major new work, philosophical sharpshooter Slavoj Zizek 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, Zizek 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, Zizekk [sic] argues the case for revolutionary terror and the dictatorship of the proletariat. A return to past ideals is needed despite the risks. In the words of Samuel Beckett: 'Try again. Fail again. Fail better.'"

Review: "Zizek [...] addresses the limits of liberal democratic approaches to politics and the possibility of benefit in totalitarian approaches to statehood. [...] Scholars of political theory and modern philosophy will find much here to consider and argue for or against." ("Library Journal")

Slavoj Žižek is a Slovenian philosopher and psychoanalyst, Senior Researcher at the Institute of Sociology, University of Ljubljana, and International Director of the Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities at Birkbeck College, University of London.

Matthew Sharpe's article "'Then We Will Fight Them in the Shadows!': Seven Parataxic Views, On Žižek's Style", which appeared recently in the online publication "International Journal of Žižek Studies" (4 [2], 2010), draws on this book.

The full text of the article can be downloaded free of charge here:


Excerpts: "Žižek's commitment to the egalitarian-revolutionary Idea places him on a continuum with the radical democratic political tradition with which his earlier work is usually associated. Democracy, rule of and by the people, implies some minimal commitment to egalitarianism, however conceived. Yet, following Badiou, and associating democracy with contemporary liberal-democracy, Žižek at several points indicates that faith in democracy today is the Enemy to be overcome: 'What, today, prevents the radical questioning of capitalism itself is precisely the belief in the democratic form of the struggle against capitalism.' (Žižek 2008, p. 183) [...] Žižek is unconditionally, or rather profoundly, attracted to [...] the utopian moment of radical negativity, in which the old regime is overthrown and suddenly we confront an indefinite, open future, shorn of any 'big Other' defining what is possible and impossible, permitted and prohibited ('Nothing should be accepted as inviolable in this new re-foundation, neither the need for economic "modernisation" nor the most sacred liberal and democratic fetishes' (Žižek 2008, p. 276)"

Matthew Sharpe and Geoff M. Boucher are the authors of a book on "Žižek and Politics: A Critical Introduction" (Edinburgh University Press, March 2010) that also seeks to highlight "Žižek's shift from his earlier, radical-democratic politics, to his later [that is, current], revolutionary, authoritarian vanguardism":


Publisher's description: "In Zizek and Politics, Geoff Boucher and Matthew Sharpe go beyond standard introductions to spell out a new approach to reading Zizek, one that can be highly critical as well as deeply appreciative. They show that Zizek has a raft of fundamental positions that enable his theoretical positions to be put to work on practical problems. Explaining these positions with clear examples, they outline why Zizek's confrontation with thinkers such as Derrida, Foucault and Deleuze has so radically changed how we think about society. They then go on to track Zizek's own intellectual development during the last twenty years, as he has grappled with theoretical problems and the political climate of the War on Terror. This book is a major addition to the literature on Zizek and a crucial critical introduction to his thought." (bold removed)

This book is fully searchable on Google Book Search (including table of contents):


Matthew Sharpe is a Lecturer in the School of International and Political Studies and Geoff M. Boucher is a Lecturer in the School of Communication and Creative Arts, both at Deakin University, Geelong, Australia.

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