First as Tragedy, Then as Farce | Slavoj Žižek

The cover of Žižek's First as Tragedy, Then as FarceThe write-up on the back cover sounded compelling. The tragedy referred to in the title was the events of 9/11. The farce was the economic collapse of 2008. Taken together, these events signal the political and economic death of Western-style liberalism.

I was expecting an analysis of these events (with liberal doses of Hegel and Lacan, as always). I quickly learned that the writer of the back cover must have only read the introduction! Žižek quickly left these events behind to mount his defense of Socialism in the face of failed Capitalism.

Capitalism with a warm and fuzzy face is still capitalism, and no amount of charity from the capitalists will change that. In fact, just as kind slave-owners exacerbated the problem by masking the evil, charitable capitalists cloud the real issue: what is needed is the sort of deep socioeconomic reordering of society that would render charity superfluous.

I evidently don’t have enough of a background in political theory to follow all the details of his argument (that, or I didn’t read slowly enough). Much of the book seemed disjointed and needlessly dense.

Žižek is incredibly intelligent and funny. I just wish he could write a little more intelligibly for the masses.

—Slavoj Žižek, First as Tragedy, Then as Farce (London: Verso, 2009).

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