9781844677139-did-somebody-say-totalitarianism-ne

Did Somebody Say Totalitarianism?: Five Interventions in the (Mis)Use of a Notion

Undermining the liberal-democratic consensus that enables the designation of totalitarianism.
In some circles, a nod towards totalitarianism is enough to dismiss any critique of the status quo. Such is the insidiousness of the neo-liberal ideology, argues Slavoj Žižek.  Did Somebody Say Totalitarianism? turns a specious rhetorical strategy on its head to identify a network of family resemblances between totalitarianism and modern liberal democracy.  Žižek argues that totalitarianism is invariably defined in terms of four things: the Holocaust as the ultimate, diabolical evil; the Stalinist gulag as the alleged truth of the socialist revolutionary project; ethnic and religious fundamentalisms, which are to be fought through multiculturalist tolerance; and the deconstructionist idea that the ultimate root of totalitarianism is the ontological closure of thought.  Žižek concludes that the devil lies not so much in the detail but in what enables the very designation totalitarian: the liberal-democratic consensus itself.

Reviews

  • “The ferociously productive Slovenian philosopher now takes up one of those heavy, predictable, unpromising topics – totalitarianism – and manages to produce a whirling carnival of political critique, cultural interpretations, and ornery bombast.”
  • “As an alternative to the current post-modernist cult of cynicism and retreat into islands of privacy and nihilism ... the five essays making up Did Somebody Say Totalitarianism? insist on the social link and offer the visionary strength for resistance against all forms of totalized explanations.”
  • “This attempt to rethink the conditions of radical political action is one of a number of signs that, after the doldrums of the 1980s and 1990s, left-wing thought is beginning to revive. It will be fascinating to follow where the flood of eloquence and imagination next sweeps Slavoj Zizek.”
  • “Žižek is an entertaining writer who would command attention if he were just describing how to mix cement. He wastes no time in tilting at the taken-for-granted ... Žižek wants to find the cracks in the notion of totalitarianism and fill them with dynamite.”

Blog

  • Occupy first, make demands later—Slavoj Žižek

    Slavoj Žižek writes in the Guardian on the Occupy movement, its taboo-breaking nature, and why hard and patient work is now required.

    Carnivals come cheap - the true test of their worth is what remains the day after, how our normal daily life will be changed. The protesters should fall in love with hard and patient work - they are the beginning, not the end. Their basic message is: the taboo is broken; we do not live in the best possible world; we are allowed, obliged even, to think about alternatives.

    He goes on to respond to some of the criticisms of the Occupy protests: 

    Are the protesters violent? True, their very language may appear violent (occupation, and so on), but they are violent only in the sense in which Mahatma Gandhi was violent. They are violent because they want to put a stop to the way things are - but what is this violence compared with the violence needed to sustain the smooth functioning of the global capitalist system?

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Other books by Slavoj Žižek