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The Sublime Object of Ideology

Exploring the ideologies fantasies of wholeness and exclusion which make up human society.

Slavoj Zizek, the maverick philosopher, author of over 30 books, acclaimed as the "Elvis of cultural theory", and today's most controversial public intellectual. His work traverses the fields of philosophy, psychoanalysis, theology, history and political theory, taking in film, popular culture, literature and jokes—all to provide acute analyses of the complexities of contemporary ideology as well as a serious and sophisticated philosophy. His recent films The Pervert's Guide to the Cinema and Zizek! reveal a theorist at the peak of his powers and a skilled communicator. Now Verso is making his classic titles, each of which stand as a core of his ever-expanding life's work, available as new editions. Each is beautifully re-packaged, including new introductions from Zizek himself. Simply put, they are the essential texts for understanding Zizek's thought and thus cornerstones of contemporary philosophy.

The Sublime Object of Ideology: Slavoj Zizek's first book is a provocative and original work looking at the question of human agency in a postmodern world. In a thrilling tour de force that made his name, he explores the ideological fantasies of wholeness and exclusion which make up human society.

 

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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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  • Verso Five Book Plan: Neoliberal Fantasy

    In this new blog series we bring you recommended reading lists as selected by Verso authors. Our next installment comes from Japhy Wilson, author of Jeffrey Sachs: The Strange Case of Dr Shock and Mr Aid, offering up his picks of the best reads on neoliberal fantasy. 



    In Jeffrey Sachs: The Strange Case of Dr Shock and Mr Aid, I develop a critique of neoliberalism as an anxious form of crisis management, which evolves through its failures to conceal a repressed truth. Neoliberal ideology, I argue, is not a monolithic shock doctrine, but a web of social fantasies structured against the traumatic Real of Capital. Here I introduce some of the books that have influenced my understanding of the neoliberal project, and its perplexing trajectory from the austere brutality of shock therapy to the messianic spectacles of philanthrocapitalism.


    1. Jamie Peck, Constructions of Neoliberal Reason (Oxford University Press, 2010)   

    Countless books have been written on the nature of neoliberalism. In my opinion, this one is the best of the lot. Much of the critical literature on neoliberalism presents it as omnipotent and one-dimensional – as a hegemonic class project or a mysterious deus ex-machina that relentlessly hollows out the state and marketizes all forms of social existence. Peck distances himself from such representations, providing a detailed and nuanced genealogy of neoliberalism, which emphasises its diverse sources, its internal incoherence, and its ceaseless transformation in response to repeated crises. Peck distinguishes two phases of the neoliberal project: first there was the ‘roll back neoliberalism’ of Thatcherism, Reaganomics, shock therapy, and the Washington Consensus, which sought to roll back the interventionist state and allow market society to spontaneously flourish. When this failed to achieve the desired results, it was replaced by ‘roll-out neoliberalism’, which aimed to compensate for the multiple ‘market failures’ of the roll-back phase, through the rolling out of an increasingly comprehensive set of social reforms and institutional modifications that remained faithful to neoliberal fundamentals. Hence the Post-Washington Consensus of the World Bank, the Third Way of the Blair and Clinton era, as well as numerous subsequent iterations of the roll-back/roll-out dialectic. Peck therefore insists that “it is necessary to recognize the free-market project’s adaptive (and co-optive) capacities, rather than relying on cartoon-like versions of its supposedly invariant essence’ (p. 276). This argument helped me to understand Jeffrey Sachs’s transformation from Dr Shock into Mr Aid, not as a ‘road to Damascus’ rejection of neoliberalism, but as a transition that remained internal to the trajectory of neoliberalism itself.

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  • Žižek is a cool guy who doesn’t look at explosions

    Cool guys don't look at explosions

    Why? It’s ideology, stupid. After his 1,200-page Lacanese-Hegelian philosophical treatise, Žižek has returned to his other prism—popular culture. The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology, Director Sophie Fiennes new film with Žižek, premiered at the 56th BFI London Film Festival next week to a packed cinema. As I watched the 90-minute cinematic remix of various twentieth-century films including Zabriski Point, The Sound of MusicThey LiveThe TitanicSecondsTaxi Driver and more, Zizek in his characteristically witty style, expliained his concept of ideology. 

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Other books by Slavoj Žižek