Badiou, Žižek, and Political Transformations: The Cadence of Change
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Alain Badiou and Slavoj Žižek together have emerged as two of Europe’s most significant living philosophers. In a shared spirit of resistance to global capitalism, both are committed to bringing philosophical reflection to bear upon present-day political circumstances. These thinkers are especially interested in asking what consequences the supposed twentieth-century demise of communism entails for leftist political theory in the early twenty-first century.
Badiou, Žižek, and Political Transformations examines Badiouian and Žižekian depictions of change, particularly as deployed at the intersection of philosophy and politics. The book details the origins of Badiou’s concept of the event and Žižek’s concept of the act as related theoretical visions of revolutionary happenings, delineating a number of difficulties arising from these similar concepts. Johnston finds that Badiou and Žižek tend to favor models of transformation that risk discouraging in advance precisely the efforts at changing the world of today that these uncompromising leftists so ardently desire. Badiou, Žižek, and Political Transformations will surely join Johnston’s Žižek’s Ontology as an instant classic in its field.
capitalist systems); two, a willingness to value something more than mere animalistic comfort and well-being, some thing other than the tranquil, soporific "life of happiness" advertised without end to the consuming populace. As condemnable as al-Qaeda and what it stands for indeed are, one should nonetheless keep in mind a piece of cliché wisdom: even a broken clock is right at least twice a day. What's more, al-Qaeda's confidence that the superpower Other (whether the Soviet Union circa the
meant to be specific to the historical conditions of late-capitalist societies, Zizek seemingly speaks of the dynamic enchaining together cynicism, fetishism, and the displacement of belief as an ahistorical neces sity, a universal feature of the human condition: "the phenomenon of the 'subject supposed to believe' is . . . universal and structurally necessary."23 He then proceeds to stipulate that, "by means of a fetish, the subject 'be lieves through the other.'" 24 So fetishism and the
mir acle," Lenin said in 1921) DO occur. From "impossible TO happen" we thus pass to "the impossible HAPPENS."20 A certain r e a d i n g of Lacan gravitates toward a stoical "ethics of the Real": after "traversing the fantasy" a n d u n d e r g o i n g "subjective destitution" t h r o u g h Lacanian psychoanalysis, subjects learn to accept their dissat isfaction, lack, unhappiness, a n d so on. T h e analysand realizes that dysfunctionality isn't a result of c o n t i n g e n t pathologies, b u
systematic unity to these scattered interventions (especially when contrasted with the elegant coherence of his ontology and accompanying account of subjectivity), ample evidence in favor of this hypothesis that Zizek too is plagued by the riddle of what he wants at the political level. This is not wrongly to say that he fails to en gage with concrete political facts and circumstances. Rather, this is simply to observe that these engagements don't seem to reveal a single under lying
thinkers. They are both key agenda-setters for various discussions in contemporary Continental phi losophy. Despite their differences, Badiou and Zizek, who are actively en gaged in dialogue with each other, have a great deal in common, includ ing a shared commitment to bringing theoretical reflection to bear upon a range of aspects characterizing present-day political circumstances. These two philosophers are particularly interested in asking what conse quences the long-running string of