Zizek: First as Tragedy, then as Farce

In Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings there is a scene where Pippin takes the Palantir and looks in it, not realizing that he is giving Sauron access to his own thoughts (and also having access to Sauron’s). As a result, he is given a clear glimpse into the mind of the enemy. Likewise, it is not often one reads an actual Communist proposal. While there are constant tirades that Obama is a Marxist, the truth of the matter is that he strengthened neo-liberal capitalism. Zizek, on the other hand, honestly evaluates the likelihood of a future Communist movement.

The book is divided into two long chapters. In the first chapter Zizek thoroughly deconstructs the capitalist narrative in the light of the 2008 financial meltdown. He pursues themes he will later develop further (Living in the End Times, 2010). He offers the standard critique of modern capitalism: by lowering taxes and leveling the playing field, the market allows predatory forces in the form of Big Business outbid and monopolize the market, marginalizing “the little man” (see Archer-Daniels Midland’s attack on rural America). The irony is too rich: by attacking “socialism” the American conservative allows the corporate elite to force him out of a job. The rest of the chapter is a dense exposition of Lacan, interesting to only those who are already interested in Lacan.

The rest of the book is a modern Communist proposal. Zizek must face the fact that Communism seemed to fail immediately, even by Lenin’s own standards. After each failure, Communism must “go back to the beginning.” Zizek rightly notes that it is a form of Plato’s Idea, and an eternally recurring one. Zizek hints what Communism needs is an eschatology and a Personal realization of that Idea: it has neither.

Conclusion

As with any Zizek book, tracing the actual argument is notoriously difficult since he can’t stay on topic for more than two pages. This is complicated by the fact that this particular book consists of two 65+ page chapters

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