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Welcome to the Desert of the Real: Five Essays on September 11 and Related Dates

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Liberals and conservatives proclaim the end of the American holiday from history. Now the easy games are over; one should take sides. Žižek argues this is precisely the temptation to be resisted. In such moments of apparently clear choices, the real alternatives are most hidden. Welcome to the Desert of the Real steps back, complicating the choices imposed on us. It propos Liberals and conservatives proclaim the end of the American holiday from history. Now the easy games are over; one should take sides. Žižek argues this is precisely the temptation to be resisted. In such moments of apparently clear choices, the real alternatives are most hidden. Welcome to the Desert of the Real steps back, complicating the choices imposed on us. It proposes that global capitalism is fundamentalist and that America was complicit in the rise of Muslim fundamentalism. It points to our dreaming about the catastrophe in numerous disaster movies before it happened, and explores the irony that the tragedy has been used to legitimize torture. Last but not least it analyzes the fiasco of the predominant leftist response to the events.


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Liberals and conservatives proclaim the end of the American holiday from history. Now the easy games are over; one should take sides. Žižek argues this is precisely the temptation to be resisted. In such moments of apparently clear choices, the real alternatives are most hidden. Welcome to the Desert of the Real steps back, complicating the choices imposed on us. It propos Liberals and conservatives proclaim the end of the American holiday from history. Now the easy games are over; one should take sides. Žižek argues this is precisely the temptation to be resisted. In such moments of apparently clear choices, the real alternatives are most hidden. Welcome to the Desert of the Real steps back, complicating the choices imposed on us. It proposes that global capitalism is fundamentalist and that America was complicit in the rise of Muslim fundamentalism. It points to our dreaming about the catastrophe in numerous disaster movies before it happened, and explores the irony that the tragedy has been used to legitimize torture. Last but not least it analyzes the fiasco of the predominant leftist response to the events.

30 review for Welcome to the Desert of the Real: Five Essays on September 11 and Related Dates

  1. 5 out of 5

    Ian

    The thing you notice quickly: how often the bastard contradicts himself. At first I wanted to say that he was inconsistent, but then it became clear that it was a bigger part of his mission. And, indeed, his first wish is to problematize the simple choices we have been given. Honestly, too, few are better positioned to do so. As a Slovene, as someone who cut his teeth on Soviet intellectualism then found himself suddenly a part of the Captalist West, Zizek has the perspective and authority to de The thing you notice quickly: how often the bastard contradicts himself. At first I wanted to say that he was inconsistent, but then it became clear that it was a bigger part of his mission. And, indeed, his first wish is to problematize the simple choices we have been given. Honestly, too, few are better positioned to do so. As a Slovene, as someone who cut his teeth on Soviet intellectualism then found himself suddenly a part of the Captalist West, Zizek has the perspective and authority to denounce both the Left and the Right in their responses to 9/11. The book is much larger than this, however, and throughout I think Zizek takes up the mantle of exposing the dangers of simplicity. He jumps in topic, he starts with one belief, stated resolutely, then swings to examples that seem to voice the exact opposite, yet every perspective is clearly fit together by his thoughts. In other words, as a bit of a political Tiresias, Zizek delivers a message to us stuck in our simpler ideological bodies: simplicity is part of the problem.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jonfaith

    In short, is it not that today, in our resigned postideological era which admits no positive Absolutes, the only legitimate candidate for the Absolute are radically evil acts? This is a book about dreams. The philosopher notes early that in developing nations people dream about making it to the West, while First Worlders dream about the end of the world. Slavoj Žižek is coy like that. Throughout Welcome To The Desert of the Real he displays his range without much rigor. It doesn't read as caprice In short, is it not that today, in our resigned postideological era which admits no positive Absolutes, the only legitimate candidate for the Absolute are radically evil acts? This is a book about dreams. The philosopher notes early that in developing nations people dream about making it to the West, while First Worlders dream about the end of the world. Slavoj Žižek is coy like that. Throughout Welcome To The Desert of the Real he displays his range without much rigor. It doesn't read as caprice, it functions as serial questions, those that make us readers uncomfortable. The Western Malaise is one of excess. Lacan offered diagnosis some time back. we now need to cut ourselves, distract our neuroses in reality programming. We to be displaced by the Spectacle. Our choices leave us docile. We stared at the remains of the World Trade Center and asked how could this happen here? The author poses that we should've reacted that this shouldn't happen again anywhere. This is a riveting work. Many are critical of Žižek's recourse to popular cultural. I am not. While being unaware of the title being a line from The Matrix, I find the analogy comfortably disturbing.

  3. 5 out of 5

    AC

    This is quite interesting. This brief book, which contains a series of six largely 'political' essays written after (and largely about) 9/11, is generally accessible, full of sometimes remarkable insights, though certainly repetitive, and an excellent point of entry for starting in on Zizek. There is stuff that is useless -- for example, giving "readings" of Sophocles' Antigone as a method for extracting some philosophical item or nugget that has about as much to do with Sophocles or Antigone as This is quite interesting. This brief book, which contains a series of six largely 'political' essays written after (and largely about) 9/11, is generally accessible, full of sometimes remarkable insights, though certainly repetitive, and an excellent point of entry for starting in on Zizek. There is stuff that is useless -- for example, giving "readings" of Sophocles' Antigone as a method for extracting some philosophical item or nugget that has about as much to do with Sophocles or Antigone as does a ham sandwich -- and, on the other hand, the utterly fascinating insights in ch. 4: "From Homo Sucker to Homo Sacer" -- which essay is alone worth the price of this book. Zizek -- not that I should be making generalizations based on one small volume -- seems like the guy who is channelling, mediumistically the Spectacle, and who simply lets it run out unchecked uncensored from all his principal orificies... only that (unlike with a writer like Baudrillard) it is filtered and prism'd through a hard and *resistent* ideology -- which is precisely the justification for indulging in his logorrheic hyperpublication hyperpublicization hyper...zizakization... His mind is like a mirror bearing witness to the Spectacle..., and showing us all that it is cracked.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Geoff

    "Every feature attributed to the Other is already present at the very heart of the USA." [I'll write more later, when time allows... But, after Terror, isn't it best to engage with Reason?] "Every feature attributed to the Other is already present at the very heart of the USA." [I'll write more later, when time allows... But, after Terror, isn't it best to engage with Reason?]

  5. 4 out of 5

    Abraham

    Zizek's writing is some kind of intellectual porn. I turn the pages compulsively, but what's the point? Some part of me is thrilled whenever it interacts with a thought pattern that is not reductive, predetermined, transparent. It is light in the intellectual darkness, and like porn, it removes the easy coverings of lazy thinking and reveals ideas for what they are, in all their mechanical specificity. It is compelling because it is so absent from the quotidian. Try to have a conversation about Zizek's writing is some kind of intellectual porn. I turn the pages compulsively, but what's the point? Some part of me is thrilled whenever it interacts with a thought pattern that is not reductive, predetermined, transparent. It is light in the intellectual darkness, and like porn, it removes the easy coverings of lazy thinking and reveals ideas for what they are, in all their mechanical specificity. It is compelling because it is so absent from the quotidian. Try to have a conversation about politics with someone that goes beyond platitudes and pretty soon the other person will get angry and defensive, or you will. It is nearly as offensive as kissing a stranger in public. Recently, I watched a play called The Laramie Project, about the brutal torture and murder of a gay college student in Wyoming. It made me want to puke - twice: once for the horror of the crime and once for the banality of the play. It presented total intellectual abdication and called upon the audience to become outraged but not to question any of the tenets of the conversation. Not that there were tenets, not that anything was stated explicitly which could, in any way, be questioned. The fundamental argument was that there are haters in America, and that Wyoming is a place built on hate. Some people managed to overcome their original Wyoming/hate sin, but none were as pure as the people who wrote the play, nor as pure as the martyr who was inherently without sin for being a martyr. The gay in the play is present as the victim of Wyomingites who perceive him as the hated other, while the play suggests the true other is the pure unredeemed Wyomingite himself, inhuman in his violent otherness. The real crime, this original sin of making homosexuality the other, is answered with the same crime visited on the Wyomingites, some of whom emerge into humanhood as they renounce their homophobia, just as homophobes imagine the homosexual emerging into humanhood upon "choosing" to be straight. Puke. It was like a reeducation camp. There was even a candlelight vigil in the middle. So reading a book like this is a relief from the world where politics and violence, when dealt with by liberals, is so patronizing and anti-intellectual. But, again, what's the point? Reading Zizek drops one down a hole of ideas, tearing everything apart and leaving very little ground upon which to stand. Some of the ideas strike me as pretty strong, especially the overall notion that the overall structure of our political life vis-a-vis the other/enemy sits on an intellectually tedious set of structures. His critique of torture, or his idea of the homo sacer - the person who (like an illegal combatant) fits into no known legal framework and becomes a non-person, seem fairly sound, but so what? The very nature of his constant critique invites its own. Who is he to decide that the Czechs were happy in the 80s? Who is he to make all the grand claims he makes? I guess this is what theorists do, but it all seems so arbitrary. Arbitrary and unnecessary. Which raises the question: when is thinking about such things useful? I keep coming back to the same thought - that it has to matter deeply to oneself to be worth thinking about, and in order for it to matter deeply it cannot be merely an exercise in intellectual acrobatics, it must be connected to conscience, to meaning or the search for it. Otherwise, life's too short. Still, I've got one chapter left. I can't wait to open it.

  6. 4 out of 5

    David

    I think sometimes people who've known me for a long time wonder how I ended up a fan of Zizek and Badiou, how I ended up so disenchanted with capitalism, etc. There'a a lot of things that go into it, but one aspect that this book reminded me about: these guys get it right. I'm a mathematician, have taught probability and statistics, I like keeping myself open to evidence, and here's the evidence: Zizek wrote these essays between Sept 11, 2001 and Sept 11, 2002. This book was published on that on I think sometimes people who've known me for a long time wonder how I ended up a fan of Zizek and Badiou, how I ended up so disenchanted with capitalism, etc. There'a a lot of things that go into it, but one aspect that this book reminded me about: these guys get it right. I'm a mathematician, have taught probability and statistics, I like keeping myself open to evidence, and here's the evidence: Zizek wrote these essays between Sept 11, 2001 and Sept 11, 2002. This book was published on that one-year anniversary. Okay, you say, fine, big deal, he's got people who know how to sell his books. But here's why I read it now, and here's why it's so important: he saw it all coming, he saw it all clearly, already, right then. So when people say Zizek's just a contrarian, or he's just a provocateur, well, he is those things sometimes, but he's also built himself a conceptual and analytic apparatus that allows him to see clearly the (corrupt, sad, horrifying) reality of the world much earlier than lots of other people can. This is how you decide on a good model in mathematics or in science, right? You see what its predictions are, and then test those predictions against reality. How well do those predictions and descriptions correspond to what actually came about? Well, read this book and see how well Zizek recognized, predicted, described the mess we've (all of us) enmeshed ourselves within since 9/11. So, yes, I think Zizek is worth reading and listening to because he's done a good job, before, of seeing through the noisy, confusing smokescreens and misdirections thrown at us everyday by a corrupt power structure and a bought-and-paid-for media apparatus.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Lisajean

    Thought-provoking... there’s a fair amount of nonsense to wade through, but Zizek also calls out a bunch of people/groups for their nonsense, so it was worth the wade.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Eric Piotrowski

    Nicholas Lezard said it very well, about another Zizek book: "Reading Žižek is hard work. But it is worth it; like hacking through miles of undergrowth and jungle vegetation in order to be rewarded, every so often, with a splendid view. [...:] For when Žižek stops talking like that and actually says something directly, then he is electrifying." I just wish there were a higher signal to noise ratio.. Maybe noise isn't the right word, but there's a lot of Antigone diversions on the way to actual di Nicholas Lezard said it very well, about another Zizek book: "Reading Žižek is hard work. But it is worth it; like hacking through miles of undergrowth and jungle vegetation in order to be rewarded, every so often, with a splendid view. [...:] For when Žižek stops talking like that and actually says something directly, then he is electrifying." I just wish there were a higher signal to noise ratio.. Maybe noise isn't the right word, but there's a lot of Antigone diversions on the way to actual discussions of 9/11.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Mark

    So clever I understood almost none of it. 5 stars.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Mack Hayden

    Every time I pick up a Zizek book, I go in with the expectation I'll be able to track with maybe half of it. His thoughts on 9/11 are just as askew, insightful, and obscure as you'd think they'd be. I especially liked the chapter on Israel's relationship with Palestine becoming more aggressive than ever (at the time) all while using the exact same verbiage of America's War on Terror propaganda. Each essay has plenty of peaks and valleys, but more so than some of his other works, the pointed insi Every time I pick up a Zizek book, I go in with the expectation I'll be able to track with maybe half of it. His thoughts on 9/11 are just as askew, insightful, and obscure as you'd think they'd be. I especially liked the chapter on Israel's relationship with Palestine becoming more aggressive than ever (at the time) all while using the exact same verbiage of America's War on Terror propaganda. Each essay has plenty of peaks and valleys, but more so than some of his other works, the pointed insight stays pretty prevalent and the tangents are a little less harebrained.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Umar Hashmi

    filthy Slovene muses about the secret fantasies of Americans

  12. 4 out of 5

    Amy Blair

    Reading these essays in 2021 is interesting. Given the events of our time, it is worth revisiting and understanding the first great Event of our century to uncover the tensions and ideologies that emerged from it, which continue to define our fracturing world. As usual, Zizek has three or four hits for each miss, but he still misses a lot, and some of his misfires will be clear to a contemporary reader. He also is, again as usual, too ready to see reformist social demands being readily subsumed Reading these essays in 2021 is interesting. Given the events of our time, it is worth revisiting and understanding the first great Event of our century to uncover the tensions and ideologies that emerged from it, which continue to define our fracturing world. As usual, Zizek has three or four hits for each miss, but he still misses a lot, and some of his misfires will be clear to a contemporary reader. He also is, again as usual, too ready to see reformist social demands being readily subsumed by neoliberal politics as somehow an indictment of the demands themselves. Stylistically, at times these essays are smugly self-contradictory and irritating, bombarding you with rhetorical questions that hide the confident assertions he is really making. Nevertheless, in retrospect, these essays are shockingly prescient, extrapolating the moment of September 11 forward to a not-too-distant future that looks near-exactly like our contemporary world. He detects in the political trajectory of Western capitalism tendencies toward ethnic and national conflicts based upon obscured class antagonisms, the rise of anti-semitism, the new nature of the Israel-Palestine conflict, and an emerging political polarization based upon a division between “the global field of ‘moderate’ post-politics and extreme Rightist repoliticization”. I was impressed by this last point regarding the populist right, which he already saw as the active political force against which the liberal left was becoming reactive and impotent. His prescription of an invigorated class politics as the only antidote to the destructive force of the war on terror and of ‘postideological’ world politics, though perhaps buried here in too much punch-pulling and rhetorical meandering, is today as obvious as it was subversive in 2002. Reading these essays in their context and recognizing their sometimes astounding foresight, I have let myself forgive some of Zizek’s excesses.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Amy Bharucha

    zizek.... i love you but you're tearing me apart!!!!! there was some really interesting stuff in this, but for some reason I found it really hard to get through. i love the way zizek writes but a lot of this seemed very inconsequential. the beginning and end was great, the middle draaaaaaaged way too much zizek.... i love you but you're tearing me apart!!!!! there was some really interesting stuff in this, but for some reason I found it really hard to get through. i love the way zizek writes but a lot of this seemed very inconsequential. the beginning and end was great, the middle draaaaaaaged way too much

  14. 5 out of 5

    Wes Hazard

    THIS IS GOING TO BE REDUCTIVE: Zizek going all Zizek (entertaining & digressive, Marxist-Lacanian theorizing strewn with pop cultural references and sometimes it's deep too) on the Western response to 9/11 and Israel's 2002 activities in the West Bank. Valuable for the ways in which he continually cuts through ideological bywords and B.S. in order to state plainly what seem to be the "real"/unspoken/subliminal motivations for both the state actors and radicals involved. Interesting because he alw THIS IS GOING TO BE REDUCTIVE: Zizek going all Zizek (entertaining & digressive, Marxist-Lacanian theorizing strewn with pop cultural references and sometimes it's deep too) on the Western response to 9/11 and Israel's 2002 activities in the West Bank. Valuable for the ways in which he continually cuts through ideological bywords and B.S. in order to state plainly what seem to be the "real"/unspoken/subliminal motivations for both the state actors and radicals involved. Interesting because he always goes beyond these explanations with even more dialectic dissection, sometimes reaffirming the original face-value motivations, sometimes ending up somewhere completely unexpected. I like Zizek because I'm not a theory hound in the least, but he's still navigable & engaging no matter how far down the psychoanalytic rabbit hole he goes, and I think about the subject at hand in ways I would not have on my own. He's especially good at consistently making clear just how contingent global capitalism is as a system. That said, (and especially when he writes as much about Israel as he does here) I can't quite shake the feeling that there *might* be some lingering backdoor anti-semitism operating here, all couched in the most playful & "I'm just thinking out loud here for a second…" academic conjecture. That's a pretty big charge to even suggest without some substantive evidence, but rather than listing every instance where I raised my eyebrows let's just say the vibe quietly makes itself felt throughout the work. The fact that the exact opposite vibe reliably presents itself soon afterward doesn't quite shake the feeling…ya dig? Had to mention that, but I'd still recommend this if you want some solid reasoning as to why, no matter what anyone says,the 9/11 attacks and the West's reaction to them fit into no clear-cut nightly news narrative whatsoever.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Nathan

    Basically, this is a collection of essays on current events. The title essay is, by far, the best in the book. He argues that September 11, far from projecting us into "the desert of real" has actually done precisely the opposite, projecting America further into a phantasy. Zizek amusingly uses illustrations from the Matrix and Shrek to demonstrate his points but, now that I have read several of his books, this gesture comes off as formulaic. In the most perceptive passages, Zizek points out dea Basically, this is a collection of essays on current events. The title essay is, by far, the best in the book. He argues that September 11, far from projecting us into "the desert of real" has actually done precisely the opposite, projecting America further into a phantasy. Zizek amusingly uses illustrations from the Matrix and Shrek to demonstrate his points but, now that I have read several of his books, this gesture comes off as formulaic. In the most perceptive passages, Zizek points out deadlocks between left and right, weaknesses in "liberal" strategy. But his solution to the deadlock, a kind of ethical Act to break the cycle, sounds vague and unsatisfying.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Chris Schaeffer

    What's interesting to me is that in this book Zizek approaches as closely as I can recall the distinctly Baudrillardian topic of virtuality, while in Baudrillard's entry to the same little series of monographs he just kind of goes on about whatever. Odd to me how lightly Zizek wears the influence of Baudrillard on his sleeve. His actual name seems to come up less in Zizek than it should. I saw him give a lecture last October titled 'Are Catastrophes Virtual?' and swear to god Big B's name didn't What's interesting to me is that in this book Zizek approaches as closely as I can recall the distinctly Baudrillardian topic of virtuality, while in Baudrillard's entry to the same little series of monographs he just kind of goes on about whatever. Odd to me how lightly Zizek wears the influence of Baudrillard on his sleeve. His actual name seems to come up less in Zizek than it should. I saw him give a lecture last October titled 'Are Catastrophes Virtual?' and swear to god Big B's name didn't come up once! Oh well.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Yahya Mourad

    I was impressed by his knowledge concerning movies and how he related them to the world we're living in. His philosophy made me think of how we're being manipulated constantly, how many refuses to know things while they are satisfied living in their stable routine life away from reality. Knowledge makes people unhappy, well this is only because few are seeking knowledge and when they do, they're left alone in this mess. The problem is not with knowledge, it's with people who are refusing to acquir I was impressed by his knowledge concerning movies and how he related them to the world we're living in. His philosophy made me think of how we're being manipulated constantly, how many refuses to know things while they are satisfied living in their stable routine life away from reality. Knowledge makes people unhappy, well this is only because few are seeking knowledge and when they do, they're left alone in this mess. The problem is not with knowledge, it's with people who are refusing to acquire it.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Jeff

    Zizek writes in the aftermath of 9/11, and his book is on the "fantasm" that is the real from which the Trade Tower attacks awoke us. The book is brash, brilliant, and strangely informed (as is always true of Zizek) in American cultural strata. It is Lacanian, so jargon-filled, and yet it is, like Zizek so frequently is, honest. It is well-worth one's time. Zizek writes in the aftermath of 9/11, and his book is on the "fantasm" that is the real from which the Trade Tower attacks awoke us. The book is brash, brilliant, and strangely informed (as is always true of Zizek) in American cultural strata. It is Lacanian, so jargon-filled, and yet it is, like Zizek so frequently is, honest. It is well-worth one's time.

  19. 5 out of 5

    abhay singh

    my favorite philosopher...

  20. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Burton-Rose

    Žižek is fun to get mad at!

  21. 4 out of 5

    James

    Intriguing ideas but as always, difficult to grasp and stay with Zizek. Ideas leap from Isreal/Palestine policy to the lyrics of the songs in the Land Before Time without warning.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Terence Blake

    ZIZEK, UNCONSCIOUS DISCIPLE OF ONFRAY "The beginning of any change, the first step, consists in putting an end to a false activity" (p11, my translation) This book is very interesting for anyone who likes Zizek, and he covers a lot of ground. I wish mainly to comment the first two chapters where Zizek talks a little about his own analysis, about his vision of psychoanalysis, and about his relation to Lacan. The style is very clear, and it is a great pleasure to read this book. Zizek talks with mode ZIZEK, UNCONSCIOUS DISCIPLE OF ONFRAY "The beginning of any change, the first step, consists in putting an end to a false activity" (p11, my translation) This book is very interesting for anyone who likes Zizek, and he covers a lot of ground. I wish mainly to comment the first two chapters where Zizek talks a little about his own analysis, about his vision of psychoanalysis, and about his relation to Lacan. The style is very clear, and it is a great pleasure to read this book. Zizek talks with modesty and discretion about his own analysis, and tells us how it began in a period of despair over a love affair, when he was close to committing suicide. He claims that his analysis gave him the necessary support to allow him to fight against his desire for suicide, and to eventually, several months later, overcome it. Then after renouncing his desire for suicide, he declares that he did everything in his power to resist any further subjective evolution: "I was active in every instant to prevent any change" (p10, my translation). During two years of analysis, Zizek opposed an "absolute resistance" to the whole process of the cure: he spoke constantly, to prevent the analyst from asking him a veritable question which would oblige him to change. After these two years, he stopped his analysis. To interpret this episode (and we shall see that according to Zizek "everything is to be analysed"), Zizek speaks of "subtraction", of the necessity to withdraw from all false activity. It appears that his analysis itself, after his overcoming of despair, constituted a false activity. The beginning of real change, the passing on to real activity, coincided with the act of putting an end to his analysis. This was, in my reading, his way of carrying out the leap into the void, of passing through the "cartesian moment of the void" (p11). Of course, the symptoms persist ("today I still talk too much") but the aim is no longer to eliminate one's symptoms, that is an unnecessary idea, a fantasm. The aim is to "change our relation to our symptoms" (p32) and to learn to live with them. Not to eliminate one's symptoms, but to be reconciled with them. It is true that Zizek lives comfortably now with his symptom of "talking too much". The implicit criticism of the whole system of analysis is radical indeed: "the system ... can only reproduce itself through this permanent false activity" (p11). Zizek is speaking here of the "individual, psychic, or even political and ideological" system, but the lesson for the psychoanalytic system of the cure is ineluctable. Psychoanalysis first functioned for him in an authoritarian, "bureaucratic" mode. The superego injunction to come back for the next appointment saved Zizek from suicide. Then came the fear of the too efficacious speech of the analyst, which generated the false activity of incessant talking. The "cure" was not to stop talking to here the transformative speech of the analyst, as the fantasm of the analytic system would have it. The solution was to stop the analysis and to speak in his own name. The impasse of psychoanalysis, where according to Zizek even Lacan failed, is constituted by a double bind: (1) there is no complete symbolisation (2) there is no pure desire Thus, the end of analysis cannot be some ideal transcendent point where one attains absolute knowledge and traverses the fantasm. This point of transcendence, this blinding encounter with the real, is yet another element in the fantasmatic system, its one pole in a dualistic fantasm where the other pole is the return to normal life. The system of analysis according to this fantasm is the transgressive movement towards an authentic moment of encounter with the real, followed by a return to wisdom, a distancing of oneself, a new-found normality. Zizek by his own account did everything to subtract himself from this fantasm. The end of analysis according to Zizek's strategy comes with a subtraction and a withdrawal, not with a cure. One withdraws from a false activity, which was only made possible by the passive acceptance of the superego injunctions of the psychoanalytic framework (the appointments, the obligation to talk) and of its associated fantasies (complete symbolisation, pure desire, transformative question, mad encounter with the real, return to normal life). One enters into a different passivity, the passivity of Bartleby: "I'd prefer not to" as slogan of subtraction, a withdrawing which is not the "distancing" required by the fantasm. The act of wisdom is to consider that "when there is nothing to discover, except the real, it is best to keep onself at a healthy distance from everything. Conscious that it is only an empty spectacle" (p31). This distancing betrays the real and takes shelter in conformism, even if it is a lucid conformism. For Zizek, to withdraw is a way to remain faithful to one's encounters, to prolong them into daily life. This is the strategy of fidelity of Zizek in analysis: "I'd prefer not to (change)". The analytic injunction is to speak so as to change. Zizek's "absolute resistance" is to speak so as not to change. For the change desired by the system of analysis is not a real change, it's just another fantasm. This is where paradoxically Zizek is in agreement with Onfray: psychoanalysis does not cure, it is based on replacement fantasms and acts of power. In a moment of lucidity Zizek declares in Foucauldian terms "the first act of power of the analyst is to declare what deserves to be analysed and what doesn't" (p20). He draws the correct conclusion, unfortunately calling it a "Freudian" conclusion, that "everything is to be analysed" (p21), making clear by the examples he gives that it is above all conformism, normality, and the acts of power of psychoanalysts that are to be analysed. However, this intuition itself is extra-analytic, as if everything is to be analysed the analytic system itself is to be analysed ... as a fantasm. Bartleby's (and Zizek's) strategy goes then: speak so as not to change in the terms of the fantasm, neither mine nor my analyst's. "Everything is to be analysed" is ironically a jungian slogan, rather than a freudian one. Freud was unable, unwilling to pursue his own auto-analysis to the point where he could see his "scientific discoveries" as just another fantasm, and not the reality behind the fantasm. This is what Zizek seems to insinuate with his thesis that "surplus enjoyment comes first" and that impossible enjoyment, forbidden and repressed, is only a secondary formation projected as origin: "This idea of a substantial, incestuous, impossible enjoyment is only a retroactive effect of surplus-enjoyment" (p39). In conclusion, the purported foundations of freudian theory are only retroactive fantasms. The attempts by Zizek to confuse the issue and to perpetuate the mystification of the fantasmatic system of analysis are not unique to him. One is "Freudian" but Freud is too positivist, too dogmatic, too conformist. So one progresses to Lacan, who is himself too dogmatic, too linguistic, too structuralist, too conformist. So one divides Lacan up into periods, distinguishes successive Lacans: Lacan 1, 2 3 4; and we pick out what suits us. Zizek likes the "old Lacan", the "late Lacan", but not Lacan at the end. He likes Lacan 3, who has abandonned the notion of the cure as the elimination of the symptoms (p32). But he rejects Lacan 4, with his topological schemas(p35). Further, while declaring that his Lacan remains that of Jacques-Alain Miller, Zizek mocks Miller by comparing him, cruel irony, to Althusser just before his breakdown. It is obvious that the signifier "Lacan" functions as a fantasm that allows Zizek to validate retroactively his own ideas. And even all these operations are insufficient, because Lacan did not see that surplus enjoyment precedes impossible enjoyment. It is also obvious that Zizek, as usual, concedes everything to his adversary once he has condemned him unambiguously. Thus, Zizek condemns New Age mysticism many times over, but goes on to valorise "the cartesian moment of the void, accomplished by Lacan" (p11). Of course this passage through the void to begin real change has nothing to do with similar-sounding New Age wisdom; No confusion is possible, as Zizek has been very careful to insert the adjective "cartesian" and to invoke Lacan. (Similar remarks could be made for his ripping off ideas from Deleuze and Guattari, Jung, the Gnostics, etc. once he has thunderously condemned them) one could in each case ask which Lacan is being invoked here? Lacan 2? or Lacan 3? or rather Lacan-Z, the Lacan that Zizek constructs pluralistically, by opportunistic picking and choosing. "Lacan" is in fact a conceptual persona that permits Zizek to think and to validate his ideas retroactively. Surplus-Lacan comes first. This is why Zizek can easily accept all the critiques that Onfray and anyone else can make of the Freudian system or of its Lacanian variant. After all, Lacan-Z preceded them all, since he is a retroactive fantasm. Postscript on Badiou Badiou himself plays this sliding game: the true Freud is Lacan; and the true Lacan is not Lacan i or Lacan 2, nor even Lacan 3, but my Lacan, Lacan-B. That is to say not Lacan at all, and certainly not Freud. Thus Badiou, like Zizek, is another Onfray-in-disguise, who cannot admit that he makes use of the pluralist technique of opportunistic cherry-picking so as to find retroactively in Lacan his own (Badiou's) ideas. Once again, the comparison with Deleuze and Guattari is inevitable. They do not find an unsuspected Lacan-3,5 who validates their ideas, they expose and analyse the fantasm of the system and then withdraw. Badiou, for all his sophistication, remains within the fantasm.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Diana Chamma

    'The underlying experience of "Time Out of Joint" (Philip K. Dick) and "The Truman Show" (Peter Weir's) is that the late capitalist consumerist California paradise is, in its very hyper-reality, in a way IRREAL, substanceless, deprived of the material inertia.' 'Again, the ultimate truth of the capitalist utilitarian despiritualized universe is the de-materialization of the "real life" itself, its reversal into a spectral show.' 'The Watchowski brothers' hit "Matrix" (1999) brought this logic to i 'The underlying experience of "Time Out of Joint" (Philip K. Dick) and "The Truman Show" (Peter Weir's) is that the late capitalist consumerist California paradise is, in its very hyper-reality, in a way IRREAL, substanceless, deprived of the material inertia.' 'Again, the ultimate truth of the capitalist utilitarian despiritualized universe is the de-materialization of the "real life" itself, its reversal into a spectral show.' 'The Watchowski brothers' hit "Matrix" (1999) brought this logic to its climax: the material reality we all experienced and see around us is a virtual one, generated and coordinated by a gigantic mega-computer to which we are all attached...' 'When we hear how the bombings (9/11) were a totally unexpected shock, how the unimaginable 'Impossible' happened, one should recall the other defining catastrophe from the beginning of the 21st century, that of "Titanic": it was also a shock, but the space for it was already prepared in ideological fantasizing, since "Titanic" was th symbol of the might of the 19th century industrial civilization. Does the same not hold also for these bombings? Not only were the media bombarding us all the time with the talk about terrorist threat; this threat was also obviously libidinally invested--just recall the series of movies from "Escape from New York to Independence Day. The unthinkable which happened was thus the object of fantasy: in a way, America got what it fantasized about, and this was the greatest surprise.' 'Is, consequently, Osama Bin Laden, the suspected mastermind behind the bombings, not the real-life counterpart of Ernst Stavro Blofeld, the master-criminal in most of James Bond films, involved in the acts of global destruction.' 'Whenever we encounter such a purely evil 'Outside,' we should gather the courage to endorse Hegelian lesson: in his pure 'Outside', we should recognize the distilled version of our own essence.' 'Cruel and indifferent as it may sound, we should also, now more than ever, bear in mind that the actual effect of these bombings is much more symbolic than real.' 'The U.S just got the taste of what goes on around the world on a daily bases, from Sarajevo to Grozny, from Rwanda and Congo to Sierra Leone.' 'Now, we are forced to strike back, to deal with real enemies in the real world... However, WHOM to strike? Whatever the response, it will never hit the RIGHT target, bringing us full satisfaction. The ridicule of America attacking Afghanistan cannot but strike the eye: if the greatest power in the world will destroy one on the poorest countries in which peasant barely survive on barren hills, will this not be the ultimate case of the impotent acting out?' 'When, after the bombings, even the Taliban minister said that he can "feel the pain" of the American children, did not thereby confirm the hegemonic ideological role of his Bill Clinton's trademark phrase?' '... when a New Yorker commented on how, after the bombings, one can no longer walk safely on the city's streets, the irony of it was that, well before the bombings, the streets of New York were well-known for the dangers of being attacked or, at least, mugged- if anything, the bombings gave rise to a new sense of solidarity, with the scenes of young African-Americans helping an old Jewish gentlemen to cross the street, scenes unimaginable a couple of days ago.' 'Or, America will finally risk stepping through the fantasmatic screen separating it from the 'Outside World,' accepting its arrival into the 'Real World,' making the long-overdued move from "A thing like this should not happen HERE!" to "A thing like this should not happen ANYWHERE!" 'Therein resides the true lesson of the bombings: the only way to ensure that it will not happen HERE again is to prevent it going ANYWHERE ELSE.'

  24. 4 out of 5

    Gavin

    Žižek may be the most high-variance writer since Nietzsche. Very occasionally he writes beautiful, thoughtful pieces and I am shocked and bewildered to find myself agreeing. The rest of the time he writes 1) edgy shit about how liberals are the real enemy and 2) complete nonsense about already dubious writers, leaking film theory and psychoanalysis into journalism, like raw sewage pouring into a ditch. There is some value in mere provocation. It is easily eclipsed. This one includes a sadly memor Žižek may be the most high-variance writer since Nietzsche. Very occasionally he writes beautiful, thoughtful pieces and I am shocked and bewildered to find myself agreeing. The rest of the time he writes 1) edgy shit about how liberals are the real enemy and 2) complete nonsense about already dubious writers, leaking film theory and psychoanalysis into journalism, like raw sewage pouring into a ditch. There is some value in mere provocation. It is easily eclipsed. This one includes a sadly memorable passage likening an intentional plane crash to a dildo with a camera on the end.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Kyle

    I think that this author has a lot of interesting and creative thoughts. My only objection is that he uses a lot of unnecessary obscure words and phrases, frenchy stuff, etc. Some translations would have been helpful for us simpletons. I'm not sure how much I really buy into the psychologizing of political issues. The method often seems very subjective and prone to bias. However, he offers a lot of brilliant insights and observations, especially of a philosophical nature. Worth reading but keep I think that this author has a lot of interesting and creative thoughts. My only objection is that he uses a lot of unnecessary obscure words and phrases, frenchy stuff, etc. Some translations would have been helpful for us simpletons. I'm not sure how much I really buy into the psychologizing of political issues. The method often seems very subjective and prone to bias. However, he offers a lot of brilliant insights and observations, especially of a philosophical nature. Worth reading but keep your Google handy.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Ro

    Standard Zizek fare: somewhat rambling, quite clever, thoroughly enjoyable, and usually thought-provoking. This particular book discusses violence, capitalism, liberalism, and war in the context of the immediate aftermath of 9/11. Its a testament to Zizek that much of his arguments and analysis in this book are more or less common sense among wide swathes of the population today, 16 years after the beginning of the War on Terror.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Uğur Alkan

    Zizek is one of my most trusted contemporary philosophers as a radical thinker. In broader perspective we are not sharing the same views about the world; however, I really do care his ideas. They are concrete and quick which is the most important part for me. For example, if there is a global problem happened newly, he writes so quick about it and the ideas would be more concrete from most of out there in the field.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Manal

    An excitingly insightful analysis of a post-9/11 culture of virtual representation. I love how Žižek works on multiple levels simultaneously; he links the political with the social and the cultural with much ease. You will not enjoy it if you are not familiar with Žižek's disorderly style and shambolic flow of ideas. An excitingly insightful analysis of a post-9/11 culture of virtual representation. I love how Žižek works on multiple levels simultaneously; he links the political with the social and the cultural with much ease. You will not enjoy it if you are not familiar with Žižek's disorderly style and shambolic flow of ideas.

  29. 5 out of 5

    alejandro_emeh

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. "Žižek shows how today the fundamentalist terrorist plays an analogous symbolic role to the Jew during the Holocaust, the excluded "other" whose alien presence legitimizes measures of internal discipline. Although Americans were victims, so were the attacking terrorists, and therefore neither side was justified in their violent actions." (Wikipedia) "Žižek shows how today the fundamentalist terrorist plays an analogous symbolic role to the Jew during the Holocaust, the excluded "other" whose alien presence legitimizes measures of internal discipline. Although Americans were victims, so were the attacking terrorists, and therefore neither side was justified in their violent actions." (Wikipedia)

  30. 5 out of 5

    Seth the Zest

    Zizek lives in polysyllable land but reading him is always a necessary way to force me to reevaluate my liberal skewed thinking. This book isn't always comfortable as a result but instead is simply necessary. Zizek lives in polysyllable land but reading him is always a necessary way to force me to reevaluate my liberal skewed thinking. This book isn't always comfortable as a result but instead is simply necessary.

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