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Product details

  • Paperback: 190 pages
  • Publisher: MIT Press (3 Oct. 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0262740257
  • ISBN-13: 978-0262740258
  • Product Dimensions: 13.7 x 1.3 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 186,921 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"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 Zizek"s most compelling and passionate writing on Christianity to date." Erik Davis Bookforum "Quite possibly the most entertaining philosopher working today. Zizek knows how to think the unthinkable." Jori Finkel Village Voice "Slavoj Zizek may have the strongest 'brand identity'... of any cultural theorist now in the marketplace of ideas." Scott McLemee The Chronicle of Higher Education "Zizek is the first Marxist to write theology in a post-marxist, post-secular age." Eugene McCarraher In These Times "... Zizek mixes Pauline speculations with analyses of everything from G. K. Chesterton to chocolate eggs." Terry Eagleton TLS "Zizek rarely fails to entertain..." Charles Seymour Library Journal

About the Author

Slavoj Zizek is a philosopher and cultural critic. 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, and (with John Milbank) The Monstrosity of Christ: Paradox or Dialect, these four published by the MIT Press.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
Today, when the historical materialist analysis is receding, practiced as it were under cover, rarely called by its proper name, while the theological dimension is given a new lease on life in the guise of the "postsecular" Messianic turn of deconstruction, the time has come to reverse Walter Benjamin's first thesis on the philosophy of history: The puppet called 'theology' is to win all the time. Read the first page
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Mr. N. Coombs on 9 Sept. 2008
Format: Paperback
Zizek's curious affinity with Christianity, which has become something of a dogma among his more zealous followers, is given a 'sort of' sustained treatment in this work. But it is less a theoretical investigation and more a series of witty, counter intuitive deductions about Christianity. All of which, as usual for Zizek, makes it makes a fun and breezy read.

He takes down Buddhism, Hinduism and new ageism, and uses Christianity to illustrate their deficiencies. Although this is all sounds pretty radical to the politically correct reader in the 21st century, scratch beneath the surface and you find a lot of the arguments are just Hegel's rehashed from the 'Philosophy of History.'

As always with Zizek it is hard to be too critical about such an impassioned and well written work. But the lack of sustainment, ontological investigation, and even (more unusually) originality, makes this a lesser work in his canon.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 13 reviews
82 of 85 people found the following review helpful
Christianity as the original atheism? 30 Nov. 2004
By Saul Boulschett - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
You're either gonna read Zizek -- because you have to or because you just love this guy -- or you are not, regardless of any review. So I'll keep it brief: Yes, the rambling style can be distracting as well as entertaining when he gets it right.

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.
66 of 82 people found the following review helpful
One of Zizek's least compelling works 6 Dec. 2003
By P. Gunderson - Published on
Format: Paperback
Zizek is a remarkable Lacanian cultural theorist, and his work deserves to be taken seriously; unfortunately, it is beginning to appear as if Zizek doesn't even take his own project seriously. How else can one explain the poor organization and endless series of digressions that constitute this book?
Most of Zizek's earlier books (The Sublime Object of Ideology, Looking Awry, etc.) give strong accounts how how Lacanian psychoanalysis can be used to analyze contemporary culture; in these works Zizek is never at a loss to show how pop culture can illustrate difficult concepts. The end result was usually a witty, incisive demystification of conservative capitalist ideology.
Unfortunately, "The Puppet and the Dwarf" falls far short of Zizek's past accomplishments. The anecdotes are still there, but they are piled up in a heap with no coherent thread of argument. There are interesting ideas in here about critical negativity in Christianity, but it is far too difficult to discern how Zizek's scattered insights hang together. In the end the reader winds up feeling more like s/he is the object of an intellectual confidence game than anything else.
Readers who don't already know Zizek's work are advised to start with earlier texts. Readers who do know Zizek's work should wait for something worthwhile.
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
What can one say about Zizek? 6 Feb. 2005
By Lost Lacanian - Published on
Format: Paperback
Okay, so what can one say about Zizek?--at times brilliant, infuriating, outrageous...yes, all of the above. If you are looking for the secrets that unfold time and space itself, then, this is not the book for you. But, if you are looking for a fantastic read of applied Lacanian theory on religion and other cultural arenas, then, by all means this book is worth the buy. It is almost getting trite to hear people complain about Zizek's style, analysis, originality, etc...After all, he is only a man. Rather, to focus on the strengths of this book: it does a good job of introducing one to some interesting Lacanian issues, such as the the super-ego, the idea that the Other does not exist, Lacan's interesting thesis that God is not dead but unconscious, just to name a few. Also, many of the jokes that Zizek loves to tell are put into footnotes instead of the body of the text which gives the text more focus. Also, if one has been keeping up with Zizek's interventions into Christianity versus Judaism, then, one may be interested in this book because he does change some of his positions. All in all, this book represents some of Zizek's best work since "Ticklish Subject."
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Some Assembly (and a B.A. in Psychoanalysis) Required 5 Nov. 2012
By Soren K. - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I'm not a stranger to philosophy. I grew up reading Kierkegaard. I read Barthes, Althusser, and Baudrillard in college. This was my first attempt at Zizek's work. I recall an interview where Zizek went on a late night talk show to discuss this book and told the host that he wrote it specifically for clarity. I do not know whether this was one of his ironic attempts at humor or whether all of his work is as generally impenetrable to the layman as this.

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.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Useful in Grad School 21 Aug. 2011
By W. Donovan - Published on
Format: Paperback
I have been able to use this gem once or twice. Quotes like this make me love Zizek:

"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.
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