Over the next two months, we will be discussing Žižek’s latest book, First As Tragedy, Then As Farce. The book is rather short but ranges widely across a number of different fields. As such, it is difficult to encapsulate it in a sentence or two. So to give you an idea of what the book is about, let’s listen to what the book’s publisher has to say:
In this bravura analysis of the current global crisis following on from his bestselling Welcome to the Desert of the Real, Slavoj Zizek argues that the liberal idea of the “end of history,” declared by Francis Fukuyama during the 1990s, has had to die twice. After the collapse of the liberal-democratic political utopia, on the morning of 9/11, came the collapse of the economic utopia of global market capitalism at the end of 2008.That’s all in the book, but it’s kind of like saying Moby Dick is just a story about a guy chasing a whale. Besides the economic crisis, Žižek takes on the state of the Left, popular film, Barack Obama and the debate over healthcare reform, ecology, communism, and a number of other subjects. We’ll try to cover as many of them as possible in the coming weeks.
Marx argued that history repeats itself “occuring first as tragedy, the second time as farce” and Žižek, following Herbert Marcuse, notes here that the repetition as farce can be even more terrifying than the original tragedy. The financial meltdown signals that the fantasy of globalization is over and as millions are put out of work it has become impossible to ignore the irrationality of global capitalism. Just a few months before the crash, the world’s priorities seemed to be global warming, AIDS, and access to medicine, food and water — tasks labelled as urgent, but with any real action repeatedly postponed.
Now, after the financial implosion, the urgent need to act seems to have become unconditional — with the result that undreamt of quantities of cash were immediately found and then poured into the financial sector without any regard for the old priorities. Do we need further proof, Žižek asks, that Capital is the Real of our lives: the Real whose demands are more absolute than even the most pressing problems of our natural and social world?
While you wait to obtain your copy of the book (place your holds here) , begin to familiarize yourself with Zizek’s perspective by checking out the following links:
Žižek in the New Statesman: “I am a Leninist. Lenin wasn’t afraid to dirty his hands. If you can get power, grab it.”
Interview with Slavoj Žižek – full transcript
20 Years of Collapse - New York Times editorial on the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall