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Less Than Nothing: Hegel and the Shadow of Dialectical Materialism

The Hegel that Žižek loves is much like Žižek himself: a relentless iconoclast, a restless wordsmith, an inventive thinker with a hatred of received wisdom. —Bookforum
For the last two centuries, Western philosophy has developed in the shadow of Hegel, an influence each new thinker struggles to escape. As a consequence, Hegel's absolute idealism has become the bogeyman of philosophy, obscuring the fact that he is the defining philosopher of the historical transition to modernity, a period with which our own times share startling similarities.

Today, as global capitalism comes apart at the seams, we are entering a new period of transition. In Less Than Nothing, the product of a career-long focus on the part of its author, Slavoj Žižek argues it is imperative we not simply return to Hegel but that we repeat and exceed his triumphs, overcoming his limitations by being even more Hegelian than the master himself. Such an approach not only enables Žižek to diagnose our present condition, but also to engage in a critical dialogue with the key strands of contemporary thought—Heidegger, Badiou, speculative realism, quantum physics, and cognitive sciences. Modernity will begin and end with Hegel.

Reviews

  • “A lucid rendering of modern society’s debt to Hegel.”
  • “Few thinkers illustrate the contradictions of contemporary capitalism better than Slavoj Žižek ... one of the world's best-known public intellectuals.”
  • “A serious attempt to reanimate or re-actualize Hegel.”
  • “A gifted speaker—tumultuous, emphatic, direct—and he writes as he speaks.”
  • “The Hegel that Žižek loves is much like Žižek himself: a relentless iconoclast, a restless wordsmith, an inventive thinker with a hatred of received wisdom, an underminer of conventionally acknowledged truths. Žižek's Hegel is kind of a cosmic prankster.”

Blog

  • Stop the Owl of Minerva! - Zizek's favourite books on Hegel

    Both Less Than Nothing and Absolute Recoil are major investigations of Hegel's thought. We asked Zizek which books on Hegel inspired his writing. Here's the list (in no order):

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  • "I'd tax cats. Heavily" - Slavoj Zizek

    Renowned Slovenian philosopher and cultural theoriest, Slavoj Žižek, recently participated in a live webchat on the Guardian website. Guardian readers were asked to submit their questions for the typically rambunctious Žižek, and they ranged from his thoughts on Scottish independence, ISIS and the London riots to...cats.


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  • Hegel and the Metaphysics of Contingency

    Peter Thompson, the director of the Centre for Ernst Bloch Studies at the University of Sheffield, discusses Hegel: the philosopher of contradiction. In this short essay, Thompson draws out the root of Hegel's themes of dialectics, nothingness, contradiction, and contingency.

    Nothing proceeds from nothingness, as also nothing passes away into non-existence.

    -Shakespeare (Marcus Aurelius)-

    Hegel is the philosopher of contradiction. His system is not only full of apparent contradictions but is itself based on the recognition that contradiction is the fundamental starting point of all philosophy, indeed all thought. What Shakespeare has Marcus Aurelius say in the above quote is at the root of Hegel's dialectic of becoming. For although we might agree with Parmenides, Marcus Aurelius and Maria from the Sound of Music that ex nihilo nihil fit (or nothing comes from nothing), the real kernel of Hegel's thought is about the process involved in getting from nowhere to nothing.

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Other books by Slavoj Žižek