Philosophical materialism in all its forms – from scientific naturalism to Deleuzian New Materialism – has failed to meet the key theoretical and political challenges of the modern world. This is the burden of philosopher Slavoj Žižek’s argument in this pathbreaking and eclectic new work. Recent history has seen developments such as quantum physics and Freudian psychoanalysis, not to speak of the failure of twentieth-century communism, shake our understanding of existence.
In the process, the dominant tradition in Western philosophy lost its moorings. To bring materialism up to date, Žižek – himself a committed materialist and communist – proposes a radical revision of our intellectual heritage. He argues that dialectical materialism is the only true philosophical inheritor of what Hegel designated the “speculative” approach in thought.
Absolute Recoil is a startling reformulation of the basis and possibilities of contemporary philosophy. While focusing on how to overcome the transcendental approach without regressing to naïve, pre-Kantian realism, Žižek offers a series of excursions into today’s political, artistic, and ideological landscape, from Arnold Schoenberg’s music to the films of Ernst Lubitsch.
Just imagine we did all live in the future utopia that is Constant’s New Babylon. What would the library be like? I expect it would feature a greatest hits edition of the theory that helped us all get there. Here’s some notes towards it.
Sometimes to take three steps forward, you have to first take two steps back. I have been thinking that it might be worth stepping back into the archive of historical materialisms, critical theories and such, to see if there are neglected resources there. Perhaps we can’t just built on previous selections from it.
Perhaps we have to find new ways of reading even those texts that have become relentlessly canonic. New futures call for new pasts. So let’s find some! Here I have organized some working notes towards a revised resource guide to the past for this present.
On 7 June 2011, a 27-year-old school dropout called Hector Xavier Monsegur went offline for 24 hours. For most of us, this would indicate nothing more than a day spent enjoying the fresh air, but his closest online friends were immediately suspicious. They knew Monsegur only as “Sabu”, a fellow member of LulzSec, a splinter faction from the “hacktivist” group Anonymous. To them, being offline for a whole day was deeply odd behaviour.
Gabriella (Biella) Coleman, an anthropologist who has studied Anonymous for half a decade, describes what happened next. “They asked him to ‘open a box’ – hack into something. As proof.” Sabu did so and they took him back into their confidence.