By Jonathan Maunder
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First as Tragedy, Then as Farce

This article is over 12 years, 9 months old
Slavoj Zizek, Verso; £7.99
Issue 341

Seven years ago Slavoj Žižek wrote a short book about the 9/11 attacks entitled Welcome to the Desert of the Real. I remember it being a particularly enjoyable and spiky polemic against the ideology of the newly declared “war on terror”. By contrast his books after that seemed somewhat dense and maddeningly obscure. I found reading The Parallax View to be a particularly painful experience.

But First as Tragedy, Then as Farce is a welcome return to Žižek’s more accessible style. It attempts to do for the current economic crisis what Welcome to the Desert of the Real did for 9/11.

The first part of the book sees Žižek challenge the responses to the crisis which try to restore capitalism to health rather than kill it off. He takes on the idea that it was just a crisis of finance or that state intervention is necessarily a good thing – “In whose interests?” he asks.

The second half of the book is about recreating militant resistance to capitalism. Žižek moves with dizzying speed through an array of examples to make his arguments, and it sometimes feels that the analysis is more suggestive, offering specific insights, than substantive.

If you haven’t read Žižek and wonder what the fuss is about, this would be a good place to start. You can then form your own opinion about the strength of his arguments.

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