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Violence by Slavoj Žižek
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Violence (2008)

by Slavoj Žižek

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Series: Big Ideas/Small Books

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Nobody is subject to such diminishing returns as Zizek, in large part because by the time I've finished this review he'll have published two books. 'Violence' makes a great point about how difficult it is to write about violence: if you don't make a big show about how sympathetic you are to victims of (what we usually call) violence, you look like a psychopath; if you do put on that show, you're unlikely to say anything interesting. So, he argues, you have to write about violence obliquely. He proceeds to do this in six fairly uninteresting 'digressions.'

There's good analysis, nonetheless: he distinguishes subjective violence (roughly, when a known agent perpetuates a discrete act, like shooting someone), objective violence (roughly, injustice that can't be blamed on an individual agent; structural violence and so on), and symbolic violence, which I assume is linked to Lacan's 'symbolic', but that doesn't come up in the book after the introduction. That's probably for the best.

In the conclusion, Zizek suggests three lessons that can be taken from the book. First, the mere chastising of violence ('Mandela is a terrorist!') is pure ideology that ignores whatever a specific act of subjective violence is responding to (i.e., usually objective violence). Second, true violence disturbs the basic parameters of social life (= the symbolic?); this is almost impossible. Finally, the violence of an act is always contextual. For instance, in Saramago's 'Seeing,' the mere act of abstaining from the vote is 'violent', in the sense that it disturbs the way things have been going. This leads Zizek to claim that "doing nothing is the most violent thing to do."

But that is almost never true, no matter how you define violence. In between the analysis and the conclusion, there's a bunch of stuff you can get less painlessly from Zizek's other books. I can't be the only one for whom all the cultural analogies are getting both boring and intrusive. Can I? ( )
  stillatim | Dec 29, 2013 |
More Zizekian goodness. Used the wrong terms for things sometimes ( translation problem ? ) Says ' superego ' when it should be ' id ' , etc. ( )
  BakuDreamer | Sep 7, 2013 |
Worth rereading. Much of this has likely been said elsewhere (and not only in Zizek's works--e.g., his point from The Parallax View that not poetry but prose is impossible after Auschwitz, pace Adorno--but also in places like Benjamin's 'Critique of Violence' or, for that matter, cracks like 'a language is a dialect w/ an army' or in the ancient anecdote about the captured pirate who declared that all that differentiated him from Julius Caesar (or Alexander the Great) was the number of victims and the amount of booty). Nonetheless, Žižek's violence is admirable as much for getting so much in one place as for its lucidity and evenhandedness (I'm thinking here especially of what he says about Israel). Chunks of it would work well in a classroom.

Some of the points to take away: subjective violence (the violence of individuals, say muggers and murderers) screens systemic violence; that the charity of great capitalists and their resignification of the exploitations of capitalism as horizontally networked systems of choice only strengthens capitalism (see Christopher Hitchens on Mother Teresa for more on this); symbolic violence (the violence of language itself and its fundamental effort to distinguish inside from outside) creates the 'neighbor,' makes the neighbor noxiously close, and allows us to relate the neighbor as an object of care; and, above all, his demand that we stop and think, that we stop acting hastily.

Can we critique him for not having a program, for not doing the impossible and describing Benjaminian 'Divine Violence,' and also for the annoyance of his bad Latin (it's not "homini sacer" but "homines sacra": there are few writers at once as admirable and as sloppy as Žižek)? Maybe. We can critique him much more strongly, however, for focusing his attention on the (apparently) noxious Peter Sloterdijk and not on Judith Butler's excellent "Critique, Coercion, and Sacred Life in Benjamin's 'Critique of Vilence" let alone her Precarious Life. ( )
  karl.steel | Apr 2, 2013 |
He has some key statements such as the qauntity of rage capital is not enough. Pure fucking genius.
( )
  wonderperson | Mar 31, 2013 |
The way it frame systematic violence of social injustice as a by-product of capitalism, and the justification of social movement is right on the mark. Mixing in popular culture in movies and philosophies is also well done.

Of course, his anti-religious stand is like by atheist like me. Good easy read if you are into thinking book. He did go off topic sometimes, but it is like sitting in the room with a smart person who like to watch movie, tv, while still thinking about the philosophy behind it, while having a short glass of whiskey. Enjoyment. Try it. ( )
  XOX | Apr 7, 2011 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Slavoj Žižekprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Valentić, TončiAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Valentić, TončiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Postoji stara priča o radniku kojeg su sumnjičili za krađu: svake večeri kad bi napuštao tvornicu ispred sebe je gurao kolica koja su stražari pomno pretraživali ali nisu nalazili ništa sumnjivo jer su ona bila prazna, dok naposljetku nisu shvatili o čemu se radi: radnik je krao upravo sama kolica...
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0312427182, Paperback)

Philosopher, cultural critic, and agent provocateur Slavoj Žižek constructs a fascinating new framework to look at the forces of violence in our world.

Using history, philosophy, books, movies, Lacanian psychiatry, and jokes, Slavoj Žižek examines the ways we perceive and misperceive violence. Drawing from his unique cultural vision, Žižek brings new light to the Paris riots of 2005; he questions the permissiveness of violence in philanthropy; in daring terms, he reflects on the powerful image and determination of contemporary terrorists.

Violence, Žižek states, takes three forms--subjective (crime, terror), objective (racism, hate-speech, discrimination), and systemic (the catastrophic effects of economic and political systems)--and often one form of violence blunts our ability to see the others, raising complicated questions.

Does the advent of capitalism and, indeed, civilization cause more violence than it prevents? Is there violence in the simple idea of "the neighbour"? And could the appropriate form of action against violence today simply be to contemplate, to think?

Beginning with these and other equally contemplative questions, Žižek discusses the inherent violence of globalization, capitalism, fundamentalism, and language, in a work that will confirm his standing as one of our most erudite and incendiary modern thinkers.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:24:42 -0400)

"Using history, philosophy, books, movies, Lacanian psychiatry, and jokes, Slavoj Zizek examines the ways we perceive and misperceive violence. Drawing from his unique cultural vision, Zizek brings new light to the Paris riots of 2005; he questions the permissiveness of violence in philanthropy; and, in daring terms, he reflects on the powerful image and determination of contemporary terrorists." "Beginning with a series of contemplative questions, Zizek discusses the inherent violence of globalization, capitalism, fundamentalism, and language in a work that will confirm his standing as one of our most erudite and incendiary modern thinkers."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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