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First As Tragedy, Then As Farce [Paperback]

Slavoj Zizek
3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
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Book Description

19 Oct 2009
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 itselfoccurring first as tragedy, the second time as farceand iek, 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 worlds 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 unconditionalwith 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, iek 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?

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Product details

  • Paperback: 168 pages
  • Publisher: Verso (19 Oct 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1844674282
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844674282
  • Product Dimensions: 19.4 x 13.4 x 1.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 43,474 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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A characteristically enjoyable development of his recent journalistic commentary (Berlusconi as Kung Fu Panda), which digs joyfully into the ideological cracks of the financial crisis so as to enlarge them, and declares confidently that 'The future will thus be communist . . . or socialist'. --Steven Poole, Guardian

A typically trenchant account of the farce of capitalism and future of communism, which in Zizek's hands is a flaming red banner confronting and affronting the deadly grey of capitalist conformity, confirming him as one of our most daring and unsparing contemporary thinkers. --Times Higher Education Supplement

Electrifying … Revel in the way he can zero in on the absurdities and contradictions of the modern world. -- Nick Lezard, Guardian 'Zizek, a Marxist, writes with passion and an aphoristic energy that is spellbinding… a great provocateur and an immensely suggestive and even dashing writer.' --LA Times

About the Author

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.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
62 of 65 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Zizek's Best Work for Years 5 Nov 2009
There was once a time that the release of a new book from the 'Giant of Ljubliana' would be awaited with baited breath. It is perhaps a sign of Zizek's entry into the intellectual mainstream that his work is now regarded more as a literary window dressing than a genuine 'event'. I am pleased to say that this work is (or at least should be) a return to his provocative and relevant best.

For those who are unfamiliar with Zizek's thought, this is perhaps as good a place to enter his oeuvre as anywhere else. It gives a strong and readable introduction to his rhizomatic style of writing (and thought) and gives ample (although perhaps less sustained than in some of his other works) example of the inter-textuality he employs. It is also consistent with the central theses of his thought. In this, he is still as much of an heir to Hegel and Kant as he is Lacan and takes care to situate ideology as the central problem of 21st Century politics. As ever, Zizek writes about this in a way which assumes no prior knowledge, although encouraging and helping the reader to delve deeper into the folds of Lacanian and Marxian thought.

Those seasoned readers of Zizek who expect a rehash of his previous ideas, augmented with little more than new cultural data may be somewhat surprised. Where Zizek's recent works tended towards writing about new cultural phenomena in the context of his political project, this book is a fairly radical step in his political project, provoked by the best stimulant of philosophical creativity; events. Of particular interest will be the second part of the book, which acts as something of a manifesto for post-Fukuyaman communism, exaggerating the break with liberal universalism that he makes with his earlier work.
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74 of 79 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The machine continues 25 Oct 2009
The intellectual composting of the entire world continues with another Zizek release: First as Tragedy, Then as Farce. This is what would probably be termed a "political intervention." Zizek has never shied away from politics, be it at home in Slovenia, or in the EU and America; indeed, embarrassingly to many of the commentariat, he often manages to churn out prescient journalism and reflections about subjects which local writers can only flail at. So it was with Thatcherism, 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, and most recently Italian politics and the Iranian elections.

Like his other recent political "pamphlet," Violence, this latest book is a concise distillation of the various re-occurring themes in Zizek's work, but, unlike that book, First as Tragedy, Then as Farce is less bricolage, and may well be as close to a Zizekian manifesto as we will ever come -replete with self-references, cut-and-paste passages and even a footnote pointing us to Wikipedia. The book is broken into two sections, the first ostensibly re-asserts ideology as the pre-eminent problematic with which we are dealing, even though depression appears "economically determined". The second section picks up the theme Zizek has been debating over the last year: communist possibilities and revolutionary potential.

This books marks the end of any apologism for Zizek about communism, indeed, after several years of noting that the Left must embrace it's troubled past, Stalinist warts and all, we are here enjoined to end Leftist guilt once and for all. Zizek is sick of ruminating on purges and gulags. Instead it is the capitalists and their apologists who need to begin explaining themselves.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Zizek for beginners 8 April 2010
As other reviewers have pointed out, First As Tragedy, Then As Farce differs from the majority of Zizek's other work primarily for the fact it's extremely readable. As such, it's not a bad entry-point into the world of one of Slovenia's finest cultural critics. It's short and punchy, and the author's use of the cartoon film Kung Fu Panda to explain both the complexities of contemporary ideology and the continuing popularity of Silvio Berlusconi is a nice touch. But in terms of the actual argument, the book leaves a lot to be desired. Zizek is, as ever, excellent at diagnosing the symptoms of modern malaise, but the remedy he proposes seems, at best, highly optimistic. Still good fun, though; Uncle Slavoj is as provocative and entertaining as ever.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Inspiring and Energising 14 July 2010
I came to this book with a degree of scepticism - along the lines of what can people like Zizek actually offer to the task of reconstructing left wing politics from the dismal fatalism that defines much of the demoralised project that once was the left. I came away deeply impressed with both Zizek's incisiveness and his capacity to be inspriring, even if, as previous reviewers have noted, he avoids directly adddressing the question of what people who want to change things should actually do.
The book is divided into two sections - the first addressing the question of ideology, and the second a concise restatement of how Communism needs to be and must be the banner of those who stand against the present order of things. The first chapter is impressive for the way he so accurately nails the ideology of neo-liberalism in all its poisonous pervasiveness. Like all really good critique, he makes the enemy both visible and ridiculous in its brutality. As previous reviewers have noted, he goes back to Hegel and Kant to develop his critique of contemporary neo-liberalism - this may be off-putting to some readers, and this book demands too high a degree of literacy for it ever to become really popular. Nonetheless the tonic of his argument about the way we are constantly interpolated by an essentially utopian vision of neoliberalism which at the same time repudiates all non-capitalist utopias is brilliant.
The second half of the book is equally powerful and simply restates the idea of Communism, almost as something immanent within capitalism, but at the same time as the set of ideas which really takes on and at the same time poses a genuine alternative to capitalist social relations.
Will this book actually become the touchstone for re-inspiring the campaigning activist movement we so desperately need at the moment? It is too early to say, but in the meanwhile, give this book a serious read.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Zizek has the answers - but who is listening
I had not encounter Zizek before seeing him on TV a couple of months ago; as he was being described as a Marxist atheist with a keen interest in early Christianity I was intrigued. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Damon Rogers
1.0 out of 5 stars Paradise for a sect
Towards the end of this book Zizek divides those who are not the super-rich into three classes: the knowledge users, who are liberal and hedonist; the old working-class, who are... Read more
Published on 14 Dec 2011 by opus
2.0 out of 5 stars Hugely Disappointing
I was quite excited to see this book on its release. It promised the sparkling creative mind of Zizek playing on some of Marx's most fruitful one-liners from the 18th Brumaire in... Read more
Published on 9 Oct 2011 by RGoblin
1.0 out of 5 stars I never saw the book
this was my second time trying to buy this book and for the 2nd time it didn't arrive!!! waht were the odds??
Published on 25 Nov 2010 by Ana
1.0 out of 5 stars Postmodern gibberish trying to revive communism
Zizek grew up in communist Yugoslavia. His parents were academics so presumably they didn't do too badly under Tito. Read more
Published on 20 Sep 2010 by Dick Chuckens
5.0 out of 5 stars An essential read
I found this book riveting in that it seemed to answer so many questions concerning the viability of Communism. While Capitalism is shown up for the sham it is. Read more
Published on 14 July 2010 by A. Sharples
5.0 out of 5 stars Sometimes rambling but always convincing
I must admit that I am not all that well acquainted with Zizek's work. However, I found this piece of polemic hugely enjoyable and convincing. Read more
Published on 28 May 2010 by Peter Peshup
3.0 out of 5 stars Meandering but Beguiling
Now first things first: If you want a concise, detailed analysis of the horrors of the noughties and the present financial crisis- from the far left or from any perspective for... Read more
Published on 11 Feb 2010 by Zipster Zeus
1.0 out of 5 stars Overrated
This is a potboiler. If you want a serious treatment of similar issues, read Jim McGuigan's Cool Capitalism.
Published on 22 Jan 2010 by Voltaire
2.0 out of 5 stars disappointing
Massively overrated, this chap uses an exotic sounding surname and namechecking various philosophers to hide the fact he cannot produce a coherent train of thought. Read more
Published on 17 Dec 2009 by J. L. Papworth
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