First As Tragedy, Then As Farce Paperback
by Slavoj Zizek
In this bravura analysis of the current global crisis - following on from his bestselling "Welcome to the Desert of the Real" - Slavoj Zizek argues that the liberal idea of the end of history, declared by Francis Fukuyama during the 1990s, has had to die twice.
After the collapse of the liberal-democratic political utopia, on the morning of 9/11, came the collapse of the economic utopia of global market capitalism at the end of 2008.
Marx argued that history repeats itself-occurring first as tragedy, the second time as farce - and Zizek, following Herbert Marcuse, notes here that the repetition as farce can be even more terrifying than the original tragedy.
The financial meltdown signals that the fantasy of globalization is over and as millions are put out of work it has become impossible to ignore the irrationality of global capitalism.
Just a few months before the crash, the world's priorities seemed to be global warming, AIDS, and access to medicine, food and water- tasks labelled as urgent, but with any real action repeatedly postponed. Now, after the financial implosion, the urgent need to act seems to have become unconditional - with the result that undreamt of quantities of cash were immediately found and then poured into the financial sector without any regard for the old priorities.
Do we need further proof, Zizek asks, that Capital is the Real of our lives: the Real whose demands are more absolute than even the most pressing problems of our natural and social world?
- Format: Paperback
- Pages: 96 pages
- Publisher: Verso Books
- Publication Date: 01/10/2009
- Category: History of Western philosophy
- ISBN: 9781844674282
Showing 1 - 5 of 8 reviews.
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Review by logocentric
This is Žižek at his polemical best. If you want to know what Žižek is about this is the book. It sets out in a clear and concise way his take on current politics. Get ready for his Communist Hypothesis, which does not take any prisoners and does not blink in the face of 'political correctness', "the point is simply that the British colonization of India created the conditions for the double liberation of India: from the constraints of its own tradition as well as from colonization itself" (116).This book is informative and philosophically rewarding. I highly highly recommend it. Oh, if you just received your MBA from Stanford, you might want to pour yourself a stiff drink first, because the truth will hit you hard.
Review by MeditationesMartini
Slavoj, you will be unsurprised to learn, is against the citizen's wage because it degrades us and makes us dependent on capitalist-creative wealth producers and their charity, enervating a genuine socialist politics and giving them a new way to parasite on us (viz. the recent/current financial crisis). But this is just the reform/revolution argument redux, right? And call me a dirty ameliorist, but I'm pretty comfortable calling Zizek's argument reprehensible here. Because we work to imagine/envision a society in which poverty can't exist, we shouldn't work to keep "the poor" alive? the two are mutually exclusive? If that's the case we should quit with the protests, dismantle our social services, and elect, like, rapacious space lizards to brutalize us until we REALLY want change.The IS line was always "talk about socialism; work for socialism; struggle toward an understanding of what it might in practice mean/be; but in the meantime, vote NDP", right? Still strikes me as reasonable.I'll quit in the interests of pre-empting a rant, although there's of course plenty more to say here--I haaate the way he conflates the welfare state with "charity", e.g., and I think the thing about European guilt/need culture and "third-world" aspiration/pride culture, while absuuuurdly reductive of course, does get to a grain of truth, and the privileging of citizens in relation to non-citizens is a big topic. But yeah, "rent enabling dignified survival to all citizens" sounds like something worth supporting. I'm for a citizen's wage covering needs, I'm for a maximum wage, I'm for taxes conceived as an active tool of redistribution, I'm for the collective ownership of property-in-the-marxist sense, I see the central questions as "how to implement these policies in a capitalist regime without causing the flight of wealth" and "how to achieve a social consensus around them" (the flip side of the envy and pride issues Zhizh raises--to me, thinking that we can work through all those bad human impulses that he knows all about "as a psychoanalyst" just amounts to saying "from each according to their ability, to each according to their need"). And I'm comfortable with the idea that the reduction in human misery that I hope all of this would effect may complicate the development of a sustainable post-wage economy. And a citizen's wage lets us all create, if we want to, artistically, without worrying about getting paid--and the alpha dawg shitbag that wants to be a big man in a big house still can, and earn more than his neighbours--just less than now.
Review by edh
Like any good book title “First as Tragedy, Then as Farce” misdirects the reader then guides him back to a new and better understanding of the author’s intent. Zizek’s writing is dense and not easy to read. I picked this book for its leftist critique of democracy and capitalism; that it was and more. There are enough insightful comments along these lines to make the read worthwhile. But Zizek’s shotgun approach to writing makes it difficult to see what he is aiming at. While reading if you keep in mind this central theme, the enemy of communism is not democracy or even socialism but capitalism, then the thrust of the book becomes clear. The front page blurb from the New Republic calls Zizek “The most dangerous philosopher in the West”. If he was more comprehensible we would be more dangerous.
Review by Mandarinate
The start of this book has promise as a social critique but quickly drifts into seemingly pointless erudition and abstraction. The only message I extracted from it was "there's a recession, so you see now that capitalism sucks, onward to revolution."
Review by jcook818
This tract by Žižek is another solid addition to his continuing work on ideology in contemporary society. While the book tends to flow with the efficiency of a falling brick, due to Žižek's unique style, the point of the book is clear -- the ideology of 'utopia' is no longer isolated to modern conceptions of communism, but in fact it is a vital part of liberal-democratic capitalism. It starts with a critique on modern political and capitalist rhetoric, then flows into a rather disjointed (but typically Žižek) analysis of everything from Starbucks to classical Marxism. Žižek's proposed response to this "ideology in the age of post-ideology" to continue a call to "get back to work" at establishing a new communist "Idea" for the twenty-first century, one that can escape the failings of twentieth-century experimentation, and one that works in modern-day social relations and structures of labour -- a continuation of Badiou's work on a new "communist hypothesis." I found the book to be a great read, with tons of compelling points made, and would recommend it to anyone who has more than a passing interest in these ideas. At only 157 pages, it is easy enough to finish in a few days, great for a light introduction to the "new school" of modern communist philosophers.For those who are not familiar with Žižek's work, he draws a lot from the concepts of Jacques Lacan and Alain Badiou, so it would be helpful to at least have a familiar knowledge of their core concepts before jumping in to this book.
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