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The Plague of Fantasies

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Slavoj Žižek is, without doubt, one of the most stimulating and vibrant thinkers of our time, and his idiosyncratic blend of Lacan and Hegel is always sparkling with insight and studded with amusing stories, anecdotes and jokes. In The Plague of Fantasies Žižek approaches another enormous subject with characteristic brio and provocativeness. The current epoch is plagued by fantasms Slavoj Žižek is, without doubt, one of the most stimulating and vibrant thinkers of our time, and his idiosyncratic blend of Lacan and Hegel is always sparkling with insight and studded with amusing stories, anecdotes and jokes. In The Plague of Fantasies Žižek approaches another enormous subject with characteristic brio and provocativeness. The current epoch is plagued by fantasms: there is an ever intensifying antagonism between the process of ever greater abstraction of our lives—whether in the form of digitalization or market relations—and the deluge of pseudo-concrete images which surround us. Traditional critical thought would have sought to trace the roots of abstract notions in concrete social reality; but today, the correct procedure is the inverse—from pseudo-concrete imagery to the abstract process which structures our lives. Ranging in his examples from national differences in toilet design to cybersex, and from intellectuals’ responses to the Bosnian war to Robert Schumann’s music, Žižek explores the relations between fantasy and ideology, the way in which fantasy animates enjoy-ment while protecting against its excesses, the associations of the notion of fetishism with fantasized seduction, and the ways in which digitalization and cyberspace affect the status of subjectivity. To the already initiated, The Plague of Fantasies will be a welcome reminder of why they enjoy Žižek’s writing so much. For new readers, it will be the beginning of a long and meaningful relationship.


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Slavoj Žižek is, without doubt, one of the most stimulating and vibrant thinkers of our time, and his idiosyncratic blend of Lacan and Hegel is always sparkling with insight and studded with amusing stories, anecdotes and jokes. In The Plague of Fantasies Žižek approaches another enormous subject with characteristic brio and provocativeness. The current epoch is plagued by fantasms Slavoj Žižek is, without doubt, one of the most stimulating and vibrant thinkers of our time, and his idiosyncratic blend of Lacan and Hegel is always sparkling with insight and studded with amusing stories, anecdotes and jokes. In The Plague of Fantasies Žižek approaches another enormous subject with characteristic brio and provocativeness. The current epoch is plagued by fantasms: there is an ever intensifying antagonism between the process of ever greater abstraction of our lives—whether in the form of digitalization or market relations—and the deluge of pseudo-concrete images which surround us. Traditional critical thought would have sought to trace the roots of abstract notions in concrete social reality; but today, the correct procedure is the inverse—from pseudo-concrete imagery to the abstract process which structures our lives. Ranging in his examples from national differences in toilet design to cybersex, and from intellectuals’ responses to the Bosnian war to Robert Schumann’s music, Žižek explores the relations between fantasy and ideology, the way in which fantasy animates enjoy-ment while protecting against its excesses, the associations of the notion of fetishism with fantasized seduction, and the ways in which digitalization and cyberspace affect the status of subjectivity. To the already initiated, The Plague of Fantasies will be a welcome reminder of why they enjoy Žižek’s writing so much. For new readers, it will be the beginning of a long and meaningful relationship.

30 review for The Plague of Fantasies

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jonfaith

    The Plague of Fantasies never abandoned its grip. Even while it flogged me and mocked my struggles. "Its too theoretical", it chortled as I would stumble. A generous pause and hefty lift would return me to my feet --just so it could spit again in my face. If it were not for the appendices at the book's conclusion, I would wager that I had gathered little from the experience. The these three addendum (three uneasy pieces) made the difference: the first on film discussed our willful shame as cinem The Plague of Fantasies never abandoned its grip. Even while it flogged me and mocked my struggles. "Its too theoretical", it chortled as I would stumble. A generous pause and hefty lift would return me to my feet --just so it could spit again in my face. If it were not for the appendices at the book's conclusion, I would wager that I had gathered little from the experience. The these three addendum (three uneasy pieces) made the difference: the first on film discussed our willful shame as cinema viewers, the second dwells on classical music and notes the arrival of the failing melody which distinguishes the distance between romanticism and classicism, especially in the work of Robert Schuman. The final piece was on Kant and his forsaken notion of Diabolical Evil. This leads to haunting exposition on the Shoah. Only for hard-core theorists.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Owain

    Reading Žižek is a little bit like having mind sex. Every work of his I've encountered is a vast, exciting and rambling anthology of intellectual thought, though this book was far more coherent than some of his more recent stuff I read. I felt this book contained something a bit more profound than a lot of things I've read, but then again, I've never read any psychoanalysis before this so it seemed quite groundbreaking. Thinking about so of the things in this book was kind of like delving into t Reading Žižek is a little bit like having mind sex. Every work of his I've encountered is a vast, exciting and rambling anthology of intellectual thought, though this book was far more coherent than some of his more recent stuff I read. I felt this book contained something a bit more profound than a lot of things I've read, but then again, I've never read any psychoanalysis before this so it seemed quite groundbreaking. Thinking about so of the things in this book was kind of like delving into the depths of my own psyche which is kind of like going on a deep hallucinogenic trip for the first time in the fact that it seems scary initially because this is your brain and it's getting fucked with but once you learn to roll with it you can use it to your benefit. The most important ideas in this book were, I think, the idea that we build up fantasies in our heads of what a person's character is like based on what we perceive from their actions, this is the essence of our relationships with other people. simultaneously we are also helping to construct these fantasies when we present ourselves to other people as we act and speak in a way that represents how we would like to be viewed, selectively choosing what information to give people about ourselves. This is something I'd never considered before but now it's very clear to me. I've found it useful in figuring out a few things especially with regards to my own relationships with people. There is another dimension to these fantasies: the Internet. Through the phenomenon known as hyper reality in social media these fantasies are magnified intensely (Žižek doesn't mention the term 'hyper reality' which leads me to think the book may be older than the word. The concept is still touched upon in the book regardless of the term). Social media allows us more potential to develop different personalities and ways of presenting fantastical images of who we are online, I would go so far to say it even encourages it with rewards for such behaviour, think of Facebook 'likes' etc. This particular bit about the reward factor isn't touched upon in this book although it was originally published in 1997 when social media wasn't so pervasive and developed throughout society. I think perhaps the most damaging thing about Facebook as opposed to more anonymous social media sites is that we are developing this personas alongside people we may also come into regular contact with which means they are able to see though the fantasy better than less well - known people, who are perhaps the intended targets, it's easier to lie to someone you don't know so well. But the online façade is quite easily broken down once real - life contact is initiated. One of the key points I think is that it's not in the best interests of our relationships with the people we know to see these fantasies broken. It's best to go along and play the game without prying too far into the private areas of someone's character lest you should see something that shatters the fantasy and ruins the relationship. It's best also not to overreach with the version of yourself you present to people making it harder for people to break the fantasy. One other thing is quite clear after reading this: I really need to read Lacan.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Adam

    Zizek is a master film critic (no, really), breezily including blazing critical insights into Hitchcock, Capra, Bunuel, and even oddities like Angel Heart (well, just the blood-soaked fucking) and cinematic travesties like Wild at Heart (well, just Dafoe's phallic head). He's also a master bullshitter. When he doesn't have an argument, he pulls the classic academic's trick, especially prevalent in critical theory/whatever you call this stuff, of saying stuff like "surely, this is obviously certain to any Zizek is a master film critic (no, really), breezily including blazing critical insights into Hitchcock, Capra, Bunuel, and even oddities like Angel Heart (well, just the blood-soaked fucking) and cinematic travesties like Wild at Heart (well, just Dafoe's phallic head). He's also a master bullshitter. When he doesn't have an argument, he pulls the classic academic's trick, especially prevalent in critical theory/whatever you call this stuff, of saying stuff like "surely, this is obviously certain to any astute viewer/reader/etc)." But the fucker's smooth, y'know, so you barely notice a lot of the time. But he talks about shit and toilets and gloryholes and fistfucking and cyberfucking while he's offering often idiosyncratic readings of Kant, Lacan, etc., so he's the shit, right? He probably is. I'm just not sure. I did find at least some of the central ideas here about fantasy and ideology to be thought-provoking and astute. The book also contains some of the finer intellectual elucidations of BDSM in all its odd complexity. And it's properly conceptual. So it works whether we're talking furry handcuffs and loose ballgags or serious police-grade handcuffs and assorted other goodies. That statement will probably make sense to people like me who've just happened across a lot of theorizing about BDSM vs. normal sex and vs. traditional patriarchal relationship structures sans non-vanilla sex. This particular book is really heavy on the psychoanalytic stuff, tied in to politics and ideology as it permeates everything from lit to TV to film. I would like to note that while I've never been able to finish anything by Lacan, not even a short piece for class or something, Lacan-via-Zizek sounds sensible. Or at least less mind-boggling and insane than expected. Found myself losing track of his precise argument, if one existed. Not sure if that matters. I was hoping, truth be told, to be more interested in the overall argument of the book. I found myself more interested in Zizek's various observations and mini-arguments on everything from the Shoah to the aforementioned film-related asides.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Scott

    Only gets three stars because so much of it is virtually unreadable but this guy is a post-modern superstar. Check out this passage. The ontology of shit. In a famous scene from Buñuel's Phantom of Liberty, the roles of eating and excreting are inverted: people sit at toilets around a table, chatting pleasantly, and when they want to eat, sneak away to a small room. So, as a supplement to Lévi-Strauss, one is tempted to propose that shit can also serve as a matière-à-penser: the three basic type Only gets three stars because so much of it is virtually unreadable but this guy is a post-modern superstar. Check out this passage. The ontology of shit. In a famous scene from Buñuel's Phantom of Liberty, the roles of eating and excreting are inverted: people sit at toilets around a table, chatting pleasantly, and when they want to eat, sneak away to a small room. So, as a supplement to Lévi-Strauss, one is tempted to propose that shit can also serve as a matière-à-penser: the three basic types of toilet form an excremental correlative-counterpoint to the Lévi-Straussian triangle of cooking (the raw, the cooked and the rotten). In a traditional German toilet, the hole into which shit disappears after we flush is right at the front, so that shit is first laid out for us to sniff and inspect for traces of illness. In the typical French toilet, on the contrary, the hole is at the back, i.e. shit is supposed to disappear as quickly as possible. Finally, the American (Anglo-Saxon) toilet presents a synthesis, a mediation between these opposites: the toilet basin is full of water, so that the shit floats in it, visible, but not to be inspected. No wonder that in the famous discussion of European toilets at the beginning of her half-forgotten Fear of Flying, Erica Jong mockingly claims that 'German toilets are really the key to the horrors of the Third Reich. People who can build toilets like this are capable of anything.' It is clear that none of these versions can be accounted for in purely utilitarian terms: each involves a certain ideological perception of how the subject should relate to excrement. Hegel was among the first to see in the geographical triad of Germany, France and England an expression of three different existential attitudes: reflective thoroughness (German), revolutionary hastiness (French), utilitarian pragmatism (English). In political terms, this triad can be read as German conservatism, French revolutionary radicalism and English liberalism. In terms of the predominance of one sphere of social life, it is German metaphysics and poetry versus French politics and English economics. The point about toilets is that they enable us not only to discern this triad in the most intimate domain, but also to identify its underlying mechanism in the three different attitudes towards excremental excess: an ambiguous contemplative fascination; a wish to get rid of it as fast as possible; a pragmatic decision to treat it as ordinary and dispose of it in an appropriate way. It is easy for an academic at a round table to claim that we live in a post-ideological universe, but the moment he visits the lavatory after the heated discussion, he is again knee-deep in ideology.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

    Oh, Zizek, you wonderfully nutty Slovenian! It's hard not to love Zizek with his playful, pop culture centered philosophy. At times I think he has a tendency to be a little disorienting, "What is the truth about human sexuality...? Hegel reference, Lacan reference, Hitchcok reference, Soviet-era joke..." But beyond the mere seductive charm of his play, there is a real glimmer of truth or a challenge to us. Maybe not the best summation of Plague of Fantasies I could come up with, but t Oh, Zizek, you wonderfully nutty Slovenian! It's hard not to love Zizek with his playful, pop culture centered philosophy. At times I think he has a tendency to be a little disorienting, "What is the truth about human sexuality...? Hegel reference, Lacan reference, Hitchcok reference, Soviet-era joke..." But beyond the mere seductive charm of his play, there is a real glimmer of truth or a challenge to us. Maybe not the best summation of Plague of Fantasies I could come up with, but there is some notion that our frequent "escapes" from the established order of things often fall short. Zizek goes after the failures present in such things as "liberal" multiculturalism, New Age belief, cyberspace, and so forth. Showing how the attempts to emancipate ones self through such means is more a fantasy than a liberation.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Skyelis Tyler

    i'm so excited. i've never read zizek before. it's very dense, so only like 20 pages into it, but each of those pages has been a delight. great great food for thought. ha ha, the review on the cover says it's "the best intellectual high since anti-oedipus." intellectual high is a great way to put it (and a great term in general, no?).

  7. 5 out of 5

    Kathryn

    kicks me in the c-u-n-t.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

    best for intro to his psychoanalytic perspective

  9. 4 out of 5

    Benjamin Britton

    “This is why the subject as such is hysterical: the hysterical subject is precisely a subject who poses jouissance as an absolute; he responds to the absolute of jouissance in the form of unsatisfied desire.“ “A 'miracle' is simply the sudden emergence of the New, which is irreducible to its preceding conditions, of something which retroactively 'posits' its conditions: every authentic act creates its own conditions of possibility.” “This externality, which directly embodie “This is why the subject as such is hysterical: the hysterical subject is precisely a subject who poses jouissance as an absolute; he responds to the absolute of jouissance in the form of unsatisfied desire.“ “A 'miracle' is simply the sudden emergence of the New, which is irreducible to its preceding conditions, of something which retroactively 'posits' its conditions: every authentic act creates its own conditions of possibility.” “This externality, which directly embodies ideology, is also occluded as 'utility'. That is to say: in everyday life, ideology is at work especially in the apparently innocent reference to pure utility” “This 'purely material sincerity' of the external ideological ritual, not the depth of the subject's inner convictions and desires, is the true locus of the fantasy which sustains an ideological edifice.” “...fantasy does not simply realize a desire in a hallucinatory way: rather, its function is similar to that of Kantian 'transcendental schematism': a fantasy constitutes our desire, provides its coordinates; that is, it literally 'teaches us how to desire'” “The lesson is therefore clear: an ideological identification exerts a true hold on us precisely when we maintain an awareness that we are not fully identical to it, that there is a rich human person beneath it 'not all is ideology, beneath the ideological mask, I am also a human person' is the very form ofideology, of its 'practical efficiency.” “The need for the phantasmic support of the public symbolic order (materialized in the so-called unwritten rules) thus bears witness to the system's vulnerability: the system is compelled to allow for possibilities of choices which must never actually take place, since their occurrence would cause the system to disintegrate, and the function of the unwritten rules is precisely to prevent the actualization of these choices formally allowed by the system.” “This encounter with the real (jouissance) is always traumatic; there is something at least minimally obscene about it; I cannot simply integrate it into my universe, there is always a gulf separating me from it.” “Every ideology attaches itself to some kernel of jouissance which, however, retains the status of an ambiguous excess.” “The gap that separates beauty from ugliness is thus the very gap that separates reality from the Real: what constitutes reality is the minimum of idealization the subject needs in order to be able to sustain the horror of the Real.” “Do we not encounter here, in this hoarse and cruel voice, ambushing us in its very intrusive overproximiey, the horrifying weight of the encounter of a neighbour in the Real of her presence? Love thy neighbour? No, thanks.” “The point, of course, is that there never was a purely symbolic Power without an obscene supplement the structure of a power edifice is always minimally inconsistent, so that it needs a minimum of sexualization, of the stain of obscenity, to reproduce itself.” “The procedure which enables us to discern the structural inconsistency of an ideological edifice is that of the anamorphic reading... That is the elementary procedure of the critique of ideology: the 'sublime object of ideology' is the spectral object which has no positive ontological consistency, but merely fills in the gap of a certain constitutive impossibility.” “One falls into the ideological trap precisely by succumbing to the illusion that anti-Semitism really is about Jews.” “We are dealing with a structure in the strict sense of the term when one and the same collection is arranged in two sets: the 'structuralist' structure always consists of two structures; that is, it involves the difference between the 'obvious' surface structure and the 'true' concealed structure.” “One can also say that this gap is constitutive of ideology: 'ideology' is the 'self-evident' surface structure whose function is to conceal the underlying 'unbalanced', 'uncanny' structure.” “In German Idealism, however, (and in the radical versions of Hegelian Marxism, like Georg Lukacs's History and Class Consciousness), 'objectivity' as such, as the firm, stable, immediate, determinate Being opposed to the fluidity of subjective mediation, is conceived (and denounced) as a ‘fetish', as something 'reified', as the domain whose appearance of stable Being conceals its subjective mediation.” “For the Marxist historical materialist, the very ideal agency which allegedly 'posits' or mediates every material reality (the 'tran- scendental subject') is already a fetish of its own, an entity which 'abbreviates', and thus conceals, the complex process of socio-historical praxis. For a deconstructionist 'semiotic materialist', the notion of'external reality' is - no less than the notion of the 'transcendental subject' - a 'reified' point of reference which conceals the textual process which generates it.” “Lacan agrees with the German Idealist argument whereby any reference to 'external reality' falls short: our access to this 'reality' is always-already 'mediated' by the symbolic process.” “In order to characterize this inversion, Marx refers to the Hegelian notion of 'reflective determination': in commodity fetishism proper, as well as in fetishized intersubjective relations, the property which is actually a mere 'reflective determination' of an object or person is misperceived as its direct 'natural' property.” “With the prospect of electronic money, money loses its material presence and turns into a purely virtual entity (accessible by means of a bank card or even an immaterial computer code); this dematerialization, however, only strengthens its hold: money (the intricate network of financial transactions) thus turns into an invisible, and for that very reason all-powerful, spectral frame which dominates our lives.” “In other words, people are well aware of how things really stand; they know very well that the commodity-money is nothing but a reified form of the appearance of social relations, that beneath the 'relations between things' there are 'relations between people' - the paradox is that in their social activity they act as if they do not know this, and follow the fetishist illusion.” “Later Lacan is fully justified in reserving the term 'act' for something much more suicidal and real than a speech act.” “Furthermore, is not the ultimate example of interpassivity the 'absolute example' (Hegel) itself: that of Christ, who took upon himself the (deserved) suffering of humanity? Christ redeemed us all not by acting for us, but by assuming the burden of the ultimate passive experience.” “Fantasy, rather, belongs to the 'bizarre category ofthe objectively subjective - the way things actually, objectively seem to you even if they don't seem that way to you'.” “The Lacanian subject is thus empty in the radical sense of being deprived of even the minimal phenomenological support: there is no wealth of experiences to fill in its void.” “At its most radical, the Unconscious is the inaccessible phenomenon, not the objective mechanism which regulates my phenomenal experience.” “The Leftist politics of the 'chains of equivalences' among the plurality of struggles is strictly correlative to the abandonment of the analysis of capitalism as a global economic system - that is, to the tacit acceptance of capitalist economic relations and liberal-democratic politics as the unquestioned framework of our social life.” “Here we find the logic of courtly love and of sublimation at its purest: some common, everyday object or act becomes inaccessible or impossible to accomplish once it finds itself in the position of the Thing - although the thing should be easily within our grasp, the entire universe has somehow been adjusted to produce, again and again, an unfathomable contingency blocking access to it.” “In more topological terms: the subject’s division is not the division between one Self and another, between two contents, but the division between something and nothing, between the feature of identification and the void.” “In other words, the very process of shifting among multiple identifications presupposes a kind of empty band which makes the leap from one identity to another possible, and this empty band is the subject itself.” “That is to say: there is definitely a Hitchcockian shibboleth; beneath the standard notion of Hitchcock - the great commercial entertainer, the 'master of suspense'-there is another Hitchcock who, in an unheard-of way, practiced the critique of ideology.” “The vision of cyberspace opening up a future of unending possibilities of limitless change, of new multiple sex organs, and so on, conceals its exact opposite: an unheard-of imposition of radical closure.” “Symbolic power is thus effective only as virtual, as a promise or threat of its full display.” “Today's racism is strictly (postmodern; it is a reaction to the 'disenchantment' inflicted by the new phase of global capitalism.” “The inherent violence of cybersex lies not in the potentially violent content of sexual fantasies played out on the screen, but in the very formal fact of seeing my innermost fantasies being directly imposed on me from without.” “What we encounter here is the fundamental paradox of the Marxian notion of commodity fetishism: 'commodity fetishism' designates not a (bourgeois) theory of political economy but a series of presuppositions that determine the structure of the very 'real' economic practice of market exchange - in theory, a capitalist clings to utilitarian nominalism, yet in his own practice (of exchange) he follows 'theological whimsies' and acts as a speculative idealist.” “Monty Python's Meaning of life is a kind of English revenge on this joke: the film is simultaneously sublime and ridiculous - ridiculous in the mode of humour.” “Perhaps, the briefest way to render the superego paradox is the injunction 'Like it or not, enjoy yourself!'” “Humour is thus one of the modes of defense against the dimension of the traumatic Real which pertains to the sexual act.” “For that very reason, however, the sexual act cannot but appear at least minimally ridiculous to those who are not directly engaged in it; the comical effect arises out of the very discord between the intensity of the act and the indifferent calm of everyday life.” “The true enigma of pornographic sexuality lies in the fact that the camera not only does not spoIl jouissance, but enables it: the very elementary structure of sexuality has to comprise a kind of opening towards the intruding Third, towards an empty place which can be filled in by the gaze of the spectator (or camera) witnessing the act.” “Here we have the exact opposite of Soviet Socialist Realism, where lovers experience their love as a contribution to the struggle for Socialism, making a vow to sacrifice all their private pleasures for the success of the Revolution, and to submerge themselves in the masses. In Reds, on the contrary, revolution itself appears as a metaphor for the successful sexual encounter.” “in the scene from Wild at Heart one should be attentive to the way Lynch turns on its head the standard procedure of male seduction, in which the gentle process of verbal coaxing is followed by the forceful physical act of sexual penetration, once consent is obtained: in Lynch, the violence is entirely displaced on to the process of verbal seduction itself) which functions as a nightmarish mockery of'proper' gentle coaxing, while the sexual act itself simply fails to materialize.” “The crucial paradox is that we come closest to the Real in Wild at Heart, where the act itself does not occur: the very absence of the act in reality confronts us with the Real of the subject, with the innermost kernel of her jouissance.” “Our point, however, is that this passage from Mozart to Wagner does not entail merely a loss: what is clearly gained in it is the 'depth' of subjectivity.” “Furthermore, music is not historical merely in the abstract sense according to which each determinate type of music is 'objectively possible' only within a given epoch, but also in the sense that each epoch, in a kind of 'synthesis of imagination', self-reflectively relates to preceding epoch.” “Therein lies the Hegelian loss of a loss'; another way to put it is to paraphrase the Gospel - in the double renunciation, the subject loses that which he does not possess.” “Is not Hitchcock's Vertigo the study in melancholic loss which also demonstrates how this loss is not the worst that can happen to the subject? That is to say: the film's thesis is that, in melancholy, the object is none the less 'possessed' in its very loss, as lost; while the true horror, worse than melancholy, is that of the 'loss of a loss': this occurs when the film's hero (Scottie) is forced to accept that the lost object which transfixes his desire never existed in the first place (that Madeleine herself was a fake).” “The alien from Ridley Scott's movie of the same name, for example, is 'real' precisely as the pure elusive semblance whose shape changes again and again; the same goes for trauma, the traumatic event, in psychoanalysis, which is also irréel in the sense of a phantasmic formation -for Lacan, the Real is not primarily the horrible formless maternal substance beneath symbolic semblances, but is, rather, itself a pure semblance.” “Humanism is pre-modern, pre-Cartesian, reducing man to the high point of creation, instead of conceiving of him as a subject which stands outside creation.” “It is crucial to maintain the radically ambiguous status of the fragment (foreign intruder), its undecidability between presupposition and something posited: as we have learned from Freud, a trauma as the kernel of the impossible-real which sticks out and resists symbolization is none the less a retroactive product of this very process of symbolization.” “ ‘Class struggle' is the Marxist name for this basic 'operator of dislocation'; as such, 'class struggle' means that there is no neutral metalanguage allowing us to grasp society as a given 'objective' totality, since we always-already 'take sides'. The fact that there is no 'neutral', 'objective' concept of class struggle is thus the crucial constituent of this notion.” “As Lenin emphasized, the history of philosophy consists in an incessant, repetitive tracing of the difference between materialism and idealism; what one has to add is that, as a rule, this line of demarcation does not run where one would obviously expect it to run - often, the materialist choice hinges on how we decide on a seemingly secondary alternative. Within the horizon of Kant's philosophy, 'materialism' does not consist in clinging to the Thing-in-itself (allegedly the last vestige of materialism which poses a limit to the idealist thesis on the subjective positing of reality), as Lenin himself incorrectly claimed, but, rather, in asserting the primacy of mathematical antinomy, and conceiving dynamic antinomy as secondary, as an attempt to 'save phenomena' through the noumenal Law as their constitutive exception." “The way to undermine ethical particularism (the notion that a subject can find his or her ethical Substance only in the particular tradition out of which he grew) is thus not via reference to some more universal positive content (like the unfortunate 'universal values shared by all humanity’), but only by accepting that the ethical Universal is in itself indeterminate, empty, and that it can be translated into a set of positive explicit norms only by means of my active engagement, for which I take full responsibility... thus there is no determinate ethical universality without the contingency of the subject's act of positing it as such.” “In short, what Lacan calls 'act' has the precise status of an object which the subject can never 'swallow', subjectivize - which forever remains a foreign body, a bone stuck in his throat. The standard subject's reaction to the act is that of aphanisis, of his/her self-obliteration, not of heroically assuming it: when the awareness of the full consequences of 'what I have just done' hits me, I want to disappear.” .”That is to say: the noumenal Law is phenomenally accessible to us, finite humans, only in a negative way, in the guise of the feeling of guilt, in our awareness that we have betrayed its call, that we have not lived up to our ethical duty - never in a positive way, 'as such'; and this necessity which makes us 'a priori and forever guilty" is the sole content of 'radical Evil’.” “Hegel's implicit thesis is that diabolical Evil is another name for the Good it self, for the concept 'in itself’, the two are indistinguishable; the difference is purely formal, and concerns only the point of view of the perceiving subject.” “...it is only my failure to act ethically which guarantees that I remain an ethical subject, since were I to accomplish a pure ethical act, I would change into a being of diabolical Evil (into a Sadeian Supreme-Being-of-Evilness)...” “A revolutionary terrorist, for example, is of aesthetic interest if he is not merely a bloodthirsty executioner killing and torturing out of pure egotistical baseness, but a sincere idealist ready to sacrifice everything for his Cause, convinced that he is doing a service to humanity, and thus caught in the tragic deadlock of his predicament.”

  10. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Fairweather

    'The Plague of Fantasies' focuses on the effects of cyberspace on the subject's relation to the symbolic order—but on top of this, the book serves to provide an excellent outline of the way fantasy functions. Rather than being an expression of the isolated subject, we can begin to understand the role of fantasy as *similar* to that of the Kantian 'schema', the intermediator which renders sense impressions into categories of understanding. Fantasy is the element which allows for closure in our un 'The Plague of Fantasies' focuses on the effects of cyberspace on the subject's relation to the symbolic order—but on top of this, the book serves to provide an excellent outline of the way fantasy functions. Rather than being an expression of the isolated subject, we can begin to understand the role of fantasy as *similar* to that of the Kantian 'schema', the intermediator which renders sense impressions into categories of understanding. Fantasy is the element which allows for closure in our understanding in order for a point of view to be made tangible within a symbolic framework (which always contains a blind spot, mind you). Ok, let's talk about cyberspace and the identity of the subject. The 'real life' timid subject goes out and represses their desires in order to function cooperatively in society. Then, this timid subject goes home and performs their fantasy of violence and killing which sustains the normalcy of the timid subject by... oh... playing Counterstrike or something (stupid and possibly outdated example, but please hold on). Like never before, the structure of the symbolic order and the fantasy which sustains it is laid bare, whether through game-play, or multiple identities which one can occupy online. Surely, this ability to deconstruct potentially oppressive symbolic orders by amplifying the fantasies which allow them to operate, pealing them back in order to expose the blind spots within their fabric, is promising. Yet, leave it to Zizek to find the contradictions. While cyberspace has the ability to flatten the symbolic structure by laying out the components of fantasy which sustain it, the subject has lost its ability to construct itself or find a place within the architecture of a symbolic structure. Instead, the subject is left with a void resulting from encountering the Real, the aggregation of viewpoints which collectively are indifferent to modes of symbolization, resisting the limiting constraints crucial to a subject's identity in the life-world. What results is a paralyzed, empty, helpless subject who has not the ability to foster the 'self-created empire' necessary to perform reason, to quite possibly challenge the operation of global capital and oppressive exploitation which continues even as we stare at our screens reading articles which are but one point of view in a sea of information... Well, the problem has been articulated. What we are meant to do about this is less clear. Should a golden ratio of distance be maintained between the subject and their fantasy? After all, Zizek fully acknowledges the need for distance to render ideology operable (in fact, Zizek correctly points out that the true transgressors of an ideology are not those who challenge it, but those who eliminate the distance between themselves and the logic of the said ideology, revealing its untenability by performing it to an extreme... think—the bankers who reveal the untenability of capitalist logic by taking it to grotesque extremes leading to fiscal crisis). Is this just weak-sauce or bitter truth? Once again, I am convinced of the veracity of Zizek's diagnosis, let alone extremely impressed by the movement of Zizek's thought. Yet the solution I am quite lazily waiting to receive is not readily available. This book was written in the late 90s. A lot has changed since then. It is my belief that the changes have made Zizek's argument a little more urgent that it was—Zizek's idea of 'interpassivity' has only increased as true political involvement has been replaced with the 'like' button. Yet, the split between virtual reality and real life is not as profound as it was. Arguably, social media has made virtual reality understood more as an integral part of 'real life'. The dust has settled, for better or worse. With the advent of tracking and the sharing of personal information to perform functions and use services online, the internet is not the anonymous free-for-all we once popularly understood it to be. Instead, we've seen the mechanics of the internet function much like they do in the real world (of which they are a part), with predictable customs and channels of expression. Fantasy seems to, once again, be slipping back into the underside of ideology, in my humble opinion... which is why the relationship between politics and social media is evermore tangible. What remains important above all is Zizek's analysis of fantasy. In fact, this is *the* book to read to get an understanding of fantasy ala Lacan and Zizek, because a clearer outline of it sure as hell won't exist anywhere else. The major takeaway is that fantasy is inextricably tied to ideology. That the symbolic reality has always already been virtual, it has always already been supported by an implicit phantasmic hypertext. That, furthermore, there is no alternative to the symbolic reality. To illustrate this in terms proffered by Zizek, the symbolic threat of castration is *actual* in that the very threat of castration has real castrating effects on reality. Symbolic power is by definition virtual, by definition, *reality*. That is, the relationship between things *is* the relationship between people, it *is* a social relationship. Instead, the paradox of 'displaced' meaning is originary, that is, not standing in for some sort of more 'crucial' human relationship. In the spirit of the above, fantasy cannot be understood as opposed to reality. Instead, it must be understood as that which allows for a conception of reality. The true nightmare is not what occurs when fantasy takes hold and is given free reign, but when the fantastical structure is pulled from under our feet, leaving the subject with nothing but the constituent parts of a 'reality' which are no longer cohesive... an all-too-familiar bewildering position in the postmodern subject. A paradox among many, perhaps it is this bewilderment amplified by technology and ICTs which leaves us unable to formulate a strong alternative to global capital. The harsh truth is that an alternative might have to acknowledge its own limitations, and might well be violent, whether that violence results in physical harm or material loss, or is the psychic violence which must occur, a violence so psychologically traumatic that our fantasies are truly reoriented to frame a new ideology which would render the current one inoperable, meaningless. As is usually the case in theory, the questions posed are very interesting. In 'The Plague of Fantasies' Zizek begs the question, "Why, in spite of his 'liberation' from the constraints of traditional authority, is the subject not 'free'? Why does the retreat of traditional 'repressive' prohibitions not only fail to relieve us of guilt, but even reinforce it?" It's something to ponder.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Miguel

    I've spent the better part of my intellectual life as a harsh critic of Žižek. In retrospect, while I stand by the majority of my criticisms as theoretically correct, they have been a bit overstated. In The Sublime Object of Ideology (1989), Žižek proves himself to be a gifted reader of both Freud and Marx in a moment when a better articulation of dream-work and the unconscious's relation to dreams was desperately needed. Furthermore, in that text, he powerfully links the intellectual practice of Freud I've spent the better part of my intellectual life as a harsh critic of Žižek. In retrospect, while I stand by the majority of my criticisms as theoretically correct, they have been a bit overstated. In The Sublime Object of Ideology (1989), Žižek proves himself to be a gifted reader of both Freud and Marx in a moment when a better articulation of dream-work and the unconscious's relation to dreams was desperately needed. Furthermore, in that text, he powerfully links the intellectual practice of Freud and Marx to save Lacan from being accused of baseless hyperbole. In Looking Awry (1991), Žižek offers some of the best articulations of the Lacanian real and desire through a rigorous analysis of pop-culture. In this case, Lacan does not simply elucidate films and genre fiction, but the art objects Žižek analyze speak back to Lacan in crucial ways. All of this is to say that Žižek is at his best when providing concise readings of psychoanalysis. In the case of The Plague of Fantasies (1997), we have Žižek exploring concepts of fantasy and jouissance in a familiar fashion to many of his earlier texts. However, Plague lacks the boldness of Sublime Object and the incisiveness of Looking Awry. In Plague, Žižek appears as a terribly inefficient writer. There is a lot to enjoy here, but his roving and capacious text seems to arbitrarily attempt to integrate anecdotes and pop-cultural examples one after the other, when perhaps a more sparse explanation would suffice to support his claims. This result, while ultimately not undermining his argument, simply makes the text less enjoyable. Gone is the finely tuned examples of Looking Awry, and with their disappearance goes a great deal of his argumentative power. Still, Plague is an important text. It is worth reading if only for the second chapter, "Love Thy Neighbour? No, Thanks!" where Žižek provides a wonderful anecdote of familial unrest ("On the rare occasions when, owing to various kinds of social obligations, I cannot avoid meeting my relatives who have nothing to do with Lacanian theory (or with theory in general)...") and jouissance. It is crucial here what Žižek reveals about the social functioning of jouissance and derivative jouissance. Because Žižek enjoys his work, his relatives are threatened by the jouisssance they perceive he experiences even if their perception is mistaken. Just the threat of the annihilating power of jouissance is enough to inspire irrational hatred. Žižek also does great work on the aesthetic privileging of "incomplete" works in his first chapter, doing a virtuoso reading of the Venus de Milo. Elsewhere, he outlines neurotic-hysteria and perversion in important ways. Finally, his explication of the phallus as a signifier and prosthesis anticipates work done in gender studies on Lacan. Žižek even makes the crucial link between Poe's "The Purloined Letter" and the status of the subject in Lacan as empty set. It is strange, then, that the sometimes terrible writing and some of the most theoretically uninteresting ideas are the ones that have been picked up by critics, mostly Marxists. Žižek's notion of interpassivity is moderately interesting but has only been developed in the most crassly pseudo-Marxist fashions, annihilating the psychoanalytic element crucial to the formulation here. Furthermore, Žižek's writing on cyberspace is at best elementary and at worst woefully misguided. For those who approach The Plague of Fantasies, come with a road map. Out of the Žižek texts worth reading (of which this is one), this is one of the most uneven.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Mack Hayden

    The thing with Zizek seems to be that he’s an aphoristic writer convinced he’s a longform essayist. The funniest and most insightful moments here come when he’s at his most tangential. His greatest strength is peeling back the layers of postmodernity to see just how little we’ve developed from our primitive state. However, it’s oftentimes hard to see just how the central thesis of the book relates to the disparate chaos of thought presented here. There are moments where he really shines, others The thing with Zizek seems to be that he’s an aphoristic writer convinced he’s a longform essayist. The funniest and most insightful moments here come when he’s at his most tangential. His greatest strength is peeling back the layers of postmodernity to see just how little we’ve developed from our primitive state. However, it’s oftentimes hard to see just how the central thesis of the book relates to the disparate chaos of thought presented here. There are moments where he really shines, others where it’s easy to believe even he doesn’t know what the hell he’s getting at, and others where his hero worship of Lacan and Hegel get in the way of his own unique analysis. Still, I love the guy and his analysis of the Bobby Peru character from David Lynch’s Wild at Heart is worth the price of entry alone.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Anne Hathaway fan

    This book is very complete.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Desollado

    I'm a little skeptic with this kind of philosophers, I think he inserts scandalous references with no real importance to his arguments. Anyway the last essays turn to be very lucid and interesting.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Sebastian

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. This is my summary of what the book spoke to me of: PRELUDE Subtraction, protraction and obstruction of objet petit a (object of desire, surplus enjoyment) in examples: S: Josef Fritzl and the syndrome of the primordial father bearing supreme power over his children P: Nada in They Live escaping the ideologist reality O: Grenouille in Perfume; 'letter arriving at its destination' Seven Veils of Fantasy 'The truth is out there' - Michael Jackson, sexual assault allegations a/>

  16. 5 out of 5

    John Keats

    Pretty much mind-blowing, and it can influence how you see everything, from toilets (famous passage) to Nazis, but its dependence on Lacan and Freud, and its casual use of very complicated psychoanalytic terminology, will put off most people. If you're interested in Lacan, it can help sort him out, but you need a lot of Lacan to keep your grip on this book. And even if you do, you have to be a convert-or play one for the duration of the read--to the Freudian perspective. My problem with most the Pretty much mind-blowing, and it can influence how you see everything, from toilets (famous passage) to Nazis, but its dependence on Lacan and Freud, and its casual use of very complicated psychoanalytic terminology, will put off most people. If you're interested in Lacan, it can help sort him out, but you need a lot of Lacan to keep your grip on this book. And even if you do, you have to be a convert-or play one for the duration of the read--to the Freudian perspective. My problem with most theorists, from Structuralists to New Historicists to whatever, is they usually rage against things like humanism or Christian interpretations, and then reify their own approach to as rigid and formidable a thing as what they reject. But at least they take a stand, all the fighters in their separate camps. I tend to be, probably, a little too tolerant. I'll go for a ride if the writing's sharp and smart and interesting, and when I'm done, maybe I'll say it's all hard to buy, or just take pieces of the theory. I guess it's a good approach as a reader, but maybe not as a person. Maybe it's better to fight for one camp.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Roslyn

    Modern philosophy is such a sad, sad thing. I spend most of my time reading the philosophy of people who believe that knowledge IS knowable, i.e. those who follow Aristotle and NOT Plato, those who like clarity and not obfuscation. I just feel so bad for these guys. This book is a joke. And it's really sad because it's obvious that Zizek is a very smart guy and he would have really great insights to offer if the basis of his philosophy were that knowledge was knowable rather than unknowable. Sin Modern philosophy is such a sad, sad thing. I spend most of my time reading the philosophy of people who believe that knowledge IS knowable, i.e. those who follow Aristotle and NOT Plato, those who like clarity and not obfuscation. I just feel so bad for these guys. This book is a joke. And it's really sad because it's obvious that Zizek is a very smart guy and he would have really great insights to offer if the basis of his philosophy were that knowledge was knowable rather than unknowable. Since nothing is knowable... Zizek really has nothing to say. Even if Zizek didn't want to change his most basic assumption, philosophers who haven't extensively studied psychology drive me crazy. Half of the things Zizek can't seem to clarify would be understood if he picked up some Marshall Rosenberg or Nathaniel Branden instead of the extremely outdated Freud.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Robert

    There were some worthy clarifications contained herein regarding Zizek's philosophy, however, I also felt there was an over-tendency towards repetition. The last 40% of the book proper (sans appendices) dragged, although at the very end some important concepts stand out. The last 100 pages is comprised of 3 appendices which are, perhaps, a bit indulgent (on literature, on music, and on kant vs hegel); however, they nonetheless contain insight into Zizek's valuable revelations (however padded the There were some worthy clarifications contained herein regarding Zizek's philosophy, however, I also felt there was an over-tendency towards repetition. The last 40% of the book proper (sans appendices) dragged, although at the very end some important concepts stand out. The last 100 pages is comprised of 3 appendices which are, perhaps, a bit indulgent (on literature, on music, and on kant vs hegel); however, they nonetheless contain insight into Zizek's valuable revelations (however padded they may be).

  19. 5 out of 5

    Phillip

    One of the things I liked about this book is that Zizek goes through a lot of the concepts he discusses in The Reality of the Virtual and Zizek!, which are both films I like very much. Reading his explanations of these arguments--like his theory of authority and his explanation of the injunction to enjoy things without substance--allows me to digest the ideas more slowly than when he talks through them, which helps get a much better grasp of these arguments.

  20. 4 out of 5

    skate trasher45

    doubtless

  21. 5 out of 5

    Leonard Houx

    One of the main places where Žižek talks about technology.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Leon Sandler

    Overall, a very important look at the material conditions of ideology. The first chapter is especially essential.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Tony

    I love Zizek's sense of humor, but I'll admit I don't know as much Kant and Hegel as I should to fully engage Zizek.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Buzz Borders

    Most of the book is a struggle but the sections on the internet and the displaced subject are amazing. I mean he really nails it and tries his damndest to make everything crystal clear.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jose

    everything you need to know about your life.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Dana

    http://pmc.iath.virginia.edu/text-onl...

  27. 4 out of 5

    Mollie the Cat

    I registered a book at BookCrossing.com! http://www.BookCrossing.com/journal/13109419

  28. 5 out of 5

    Anna Chiaretta

    Lacan, Hitchcock (of course), Buñuel's l'object de desire, and anecdotes oozing off pages of brilliance... needs another read.

  29. 4 out of 5

    James

    Builds off The Sublime Object of Ideology. Essential indeed.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Gina Flack

    it's a theory book about how abstact social reality is.

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