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Violence (Big Ideas) Paperback – 10 Jan 2008

4.2 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Profile Books (10 Jan. 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846680174
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846680175
  • Product Dimensions: 13.7 x 1.8 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 737,005 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

His diagnosis of this ideology is quite delightful, producing counter-intuitive analyses that overturn what passes for common sense. Zizek rages against the reduction of love to masturbatory self-interest, the multiple hypocrisies of the Israel/Palestine conflict and the supposed liberal philanthropy of Bill Gates and George Soros. There is a fascinating analysis of the scenes of torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib, which display, Zizek rightly contends, nothing more than the obscene underside of American culture. (Simon Critchley Independent)

[A]n exhilarating, unsettling read. (The Dubliner)

His prose is dense but never foggy, graced by a wealth of jokes and anecdotes. (Arena)

An essay by the 'Elvis of cultural theory' is wisely chosen to launch a handsome new series on 'Big Ideas'. Violence is nothing if not an exciting read; provocative ideas abound on every page. (Mark Vernon Philosophy magazine)

(I)t is invigorating to find a publisher tackling the great questions of our age... Zizek's thoughtfully provocative book examines violence... the reader is treated to an enjoyable and dazzling display of intellectual pyrotechnics. (Jewish Chronicle)

In a series of fascinating essays, he locates the ruthless pursuit of profit in the structure of language: one linguistic sign leads to the next, pushing desire beyond proper limits in a consumerist thirst for more. (TLS)

Book Description

'The Elvis of cultural theory' confirms his status as the most exciting philosopher in recent history as he explores the nature of violence in typically controversial style. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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4.2 out of 5 stars
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I started reading this book when I was having a case of academic writer's block. After reading this book, an exciting, bold and typically provocative text, my ideas began to flow a little easier. Zizek is Nietzschean dynamite, a catalyst for critical thought - whether you agree with his particulars or are skeptical about some of his conclusions. He makes some compelling arguments in the book, and his exploration of multifarious forms of violence is very gripping.
If you are a Zizek fan, this is too exciting a book to not have in your collection. If you are new to Zizek, this is a wonderful place to start. If you are not a fan of Zizek, you are missing out on some wonderful platforms for debate and philosophizing. This book is such a platform, and I would certainly recommend it to anyone interested in the subject matter.
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This is a fascinating and hugely thought-provoking book by the ever stimulating Slovenian writer. His premise is that violence sustains what we perceive today as the "normal", peaceful state of things. It's refreshing to read Marxist-based thinking and analysis helping to explain so much.
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There is a lot of recycled material in this book and a lot that is off the point altogether. So a typical Zizek book. The one idea I found interesting is his explanation of street protests that turn violent, as well as the kind of thing that went on in Paris in 2005, as 'phatic' violence. That is to say, it serves the sole purpose of saying 'I'm here' and 'we're talking'. But Zizek doesn't take it far enough because in fact the phatic requires two interlocutors and its purpose is to keep open the lines of communication. So the obvious point he missed is that the police response is also phatic. By brutalising the protestors, they too are saying 'I'm here' and 'we're talking'. Moreover, if this in fact the case, then this type of protest action will not bring change because it is a routine exchange.
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We regularily express our concerns on the preponderance of violence in the world, while (sub)consciously we filter out the essence of this violence, as we go on to live our own. western, protected, lives. For that reason, violence may be used as objects of ideological manipulation. A fundamental trait in today's liberal/democrat society is the condemnation of violence, while only occasionally, if ever, we see violence as a dyad: 'subjective' and 'objective' violence. I hence think that Berthold Brecht put this dyad into perspective in saying: "what is the more violent act; robbing a bank compared to founding one?" In "Violence", Slavoj Zizek points out 'objective' violence as an important substrate, or indirectly causative element, of 'subjective' violence. For this reason alone, this book is strongly recommended.
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Format: Paperback
I have never felt that Zizek is a particularly good writer, as good writers go: he doesn't have Lacan's gymnastics, Derrida's self-reflexive argument-as-content wizardry, Foucault's strategic reemployment of established words, and so on, and yet neither does his prose flow with the clear coherency and well rounded arguments of other marxist writers, like Jameson or Eagleton. And certainly this book does not break him out of that status.

That having been said, a number of his 'look at things from a different direction' insights are genuinely interesting, and one thing you can always, ALWAYS count on Zizek for is this: he has balls. Though his argument to get to the point is highly warbling and not particularly neat or convincing, when he states that emancipatory violence exists within the realm of love, you have to imagine Che Guevara smiling a bit in revolutionary heaven (it's not as well furnished as normal heaven, but there's more camaraderie). He will run, hell, he will CHARGE at your preconceptions, and he will show no quarter.

I would recommend reading this as part of a range of works on the subject of global violence and terrorism. It is too messy and rambling to give any coherent picture by itself, but together with his other work 'Welcome to the Desert of the Real', and such works as 'Philosophy in a Time of Terror' with Habermas and Derrida, 'Ground Zero' and 'Desert Screen' by Virilio, and such Baudrillard essays as 'The Violence of the Global' and 'The Spirit of Terrorism', it can give a good, interesting, and even (!) semi-coherent view of the world's more virulent mechanics.
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Format: Paperback
Yes, it is flawed; yes, it is full of arguments that he has used at length elsewhere - but few can write prose that is as stimulating to read. Agree or not, Zizek has something to say - and you'll be glad you read it...
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