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on 28 January 2004
This is a very important book - not because any of the contributors says anything especially original or pathbreaking, but because it's not very often that intellectuals bash out their differences in such a direct way. (This is not to say that the book is particularly accessible; I would imagine it is quite hard not to get lost in the debates if you don't have prior knowledge of poststructuralism). In fact, the three authors are quite similar: all three are inspired by a politics of lack to some degree, all three locate themselves within poststructuralism and all three claim to be providing a radical agenda for the twenty-first century. Nevertheless, they manage to find plenty to argue about. The falling-out between Zizek and Laclau (formerly close collaborators, with Zizek being one of only three guest authors in Laclau's New Reflections... book) is particularly spectacular, and stems from their very different interpretations of what a politics based on an "acceptance" of constitutive antagonism would mean.
There is so much in common that the book often reads like a family feud; the authors are fighting over their different claims to a common heritage. For a book on politics, there's also surprisingly little concrete discussion of political movements. I still think this book is a very worthwhile read for anyone who can make sense of the often heavy theoretical language. It's a bit like watching a soap opera set in a university, and a welcome relief from the faked politeness and the invisibility which usually surrounds academic disputes. For once, the dirty linen is out in the open, and it makes for intriguing reading.
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on 27 March 2017
Butler and Zizek in particular go out of their way to be deliberately obtuse. Political and philosophical snobbery of the highest order.
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on 7 September 2000
This book takes the form of a series of short essays by Butler, Zizek and Laclau. Each of these writers has been influential over the last few years in developing new ideas and thinking through issues for socialists and people concerned with justice and equality.
It is fascinating to follow their debates as they set out questions for each other to answer, and then engage in careful consideration and argument of each others perspectives, coming back on each other and clarifying their differences. The process of inter-action is a real help to readers who want to get their head rounds 'isms' and theories which are often thrown around in university and intellectual debates about political strategy, but which are rarely set out in as interesting a form as this.
A central concern of the book is to develop a well grounded understanding of how democratic politics should work, and the tensions this involves. Hopefully many readers will be inspired to move from the philosophical debates clarified here to really try and make a difference to the quality of political life in the real world.
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on 16 December 2012
This is a great way to elicit and highlight aspects of argumentation that get buried in people's accounts of the world. This deals directly with rhetoric and terminology in a way that renders it inherently useful to people across various practices and camps (anybody who uses words to express meanings in fact!).

This book offers incredibly valuable insights into epistemology and ontology that have contributed greatly to my understanding. The subject matter they choose to deal with also offers a great deal of insight to people engaging with 'the way things are described'. In a world in which words cannot wholly encapsulate their referents, how should we use such words and concepts. This brings up questions of pragmatism (usefulness / effectiveness), realism (accuracy) and politicisation (purpose / effect) within each other's rhetoric. This strips down the arguments of great thinkers, and micro-analyses the potential impact of their thinking, expressions and sentiment in a way that is wholly enlightening and gripping throughout. There is a lot of wisdom from brilliant thinkers in here at a great price!
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