‘Pocket Pantheon’


Pocket Pantheon is an invitation to engage with the greats of postwar Western thought, such as Lacan, Sartre and Foucault, in the company of one of today’s leading political and philosophical minds. Alain Badiou draws on his encounters with this pantheon – his teachers, opponents and allies – to offer unique insights into both the authors and their work. These studies form an accessible, authoritative distillation of continental theory and a capsule history of a period in Western thought.

‘The Force of Nonviolence’

Published by Verso, 4th February 2020


Judith Butler’s new book shows how an ethic of nonviolence must be connected to a broader political struggle for social equality. Further, it argues that nonviolence is often misunderstood as a passive practice that emanates from a calm region of the soul, or as an individualist ethical relation to existing forms of power. But, in fact, nonviolence is an ethical position found in the midst of the political field. An aggressive form of nonviolence accepts that hostility is part of our psychic constitution, but values ambivalence as a way of checking the conversion of aggression into violence. One contemporary challenge to a politics of nonviolence points out that there is a difference of opinion on what counts as violence and nonviolence. The distinction between them can be mobilized in the service of ratifying the state’s monopoly on violence.  

Considering nonviolence as an ethical problem within a political philosophy requires a critique of individualism as well as an understanding of the psychosocial dimensions of violence. Butler draws upon Foucault, Fanon, Freud, and Benjamin to consider how the interdiction against violence fails to include lives regarded as ungrievable. By considering how “racial phantasms” inform justifications of state and administrative violence, Butler tracks how violence is often attributed to those who are most severely exposed to its lethal effects. The struggle for nonviolence is found in movements for social transformation that reframe the grievability of lives in light of social equality and whose ethical claims follow from an insight into the interdependency of life as the basis of social and political equality.

‘System Deadlock’ by Slavoj Žižek

Text first published 3rd Nov, 2019 20:31 on rt.com

‘System deadlock’: Joker artistically diagnoses modern world’s ills

Daily life has become a horror movie

We should congratulate Hollywood and the viewers on two things: that such a film that, let’s face it, gives a very dark image of highly developed capitalism, a nightmarish image which led some critics to designate it a ‘social horror film’, came out. Usually, we have social films, which depict social problems, and then we have horror films. To bring these two genres together, it is only possible when many phenomena in our ordinary social life become phenomena which belong to horror films.

It is even more interesting to see how reactions to the film provide a whole specter of political cohesions in the US. On the one hand, conservatives were afraid that this film would incite violence. It was an absurd claim. No violence was triggered by this film. On the contrary, the film depicts violence and awakens you to the danger of violence.

As it is always the case, some politically correct people feared that the film used racist clichés and celebrates violence. It is also unfair. One of the most interesting positions was that of Michael Moore, a leftist documentarist, who celebrated the film as an honest depiction of reality of those poor, excluded and not covered by healthcare in the US.

His idea is that the film explains how figures like Joker can arise. It is a critical portrayal of reality in the US, which can give birth to people like Joker. I agree with him but I would also like to go a bit further.

‘Deadlock of nihilism’

I think what is important is that the figure of Joker in the end, when he identifies with his mask, is a figure of extreme nihilism, self-destructive violence and a crazy laughter at others’ despair. There is not positive political project.

The way we should read ‘Joker’ is that it very wisely abstains from providing a positive image. A leftist critique of ‘Joker’ could have been: “Yes, it is a good portrayal of reality in the poor slums of the US but where is the positive force? Where are democratic socialists, where are ordinary people organizing themselves?” In this case, it would have been a totally different and a pretty boring film.

The logic of this film is that it leaves it to the spectators to do this. The movie shows sad social reality and a deadlock of the nihilist reaction. In the end, Joker is not free. He is only free in a sense of arriving at a point of total nihilism.

I designated the figure of Joker in a kind of Kazimir Malevich, the Russian avangardist, position when he did this famous painting of the Black Square. It is a kind of minimal protest – a reduction to nothing. Joker simply mocks every authority. It is destructive but lacks a positive project. We have to go through this path of despair.

It is not enough to play the game of those in power. That is the message of ‘Joker’. The fact that they could be charitable like Bruce Wayne’s father in this latest movie is just a part of the game. You have to get rid of all these liberal stupidities that obfuscate the despair of the situation.

Yet, it is not the final step but a zero level of clearing the table to open up the space for something new. This is how I read the film. It is not a final decadent vision. We have to go through this hell. Now, it is up to us to go further.

Kazimir Severinovich Malevich (February 23 1879–May 15, 1935) was a Russian artist and theorist, whose pioneering work and writing had a profound influence on the development of abstract art in the 20th century.

One of the most famous paintings in Russian art, Black Square marked the turning point of the Russian avant-garde movement. Before creating this painting, Malevich spent eighteen months in his studio, laboring over thirty non-objective paintings. In the end, he had created a series of non-objective paintings, of which Black Square is one.

Social alarm clock

The danger of explaining just the backstory is to give a kind of a rational explanation that we should understand the figure of Joker. But Joker does not need this. Joker is a creative person in some sense. The crucial moment in the film for his subjective change is when he says: “I used to think my life was a tragedy. But now I realize, it’s a comedy.”

Comedy means for me that at that point he accepts himself in all his despair as a comical figure and gets rid of the last constraints of the old world. That is what he does for us. He is not a figure to imitate. It is wrong to think that what we see towards the end of the film – Joker celebrated by others – is the beginning of some new emancipatory movement. No, it is an ultimate deadlock of the existing system; a society bent on its self-destruction.

The elegance of the film is that it leaves the next step of building a positive alternative to it to us. It is a dark nihilist image meant to awaken us.

Are we ready to face reality?

The leftists who are disturbed by ‘Joker’ are ‘Fukuyama leftists’; those who think that the liberal democratic order is the best possible order and we should just make it more tolerant. In this sense, everyone is a socialist today. Bill Gates says he is for socialism, Mark Zuckerberg says he is for socialism.

The lesson of ‘Joker’ is that a more radical change is needed; that this is not enough. And that is what all those democratic leftists are not aware of. This dissatisfaction that grows up today is a serious one. The system cannot deal with it with gradual reforms, more tolerance or better healthcare.

These are signs of the need for more radical change.

The true problem is whether we are ready to really experience the hopelessness of our situation. As Joker himself said at a certain moment in the film: “I laugh because I have nothing to lose, I am nobody.”

There is also a clever name game here. Joker’s real family name is Fleck. In German, fleck is a stain, a meaningless stain. It is like anamorphosis. We need to take a different look to see a new perspective.

I do not trust all those leftist critics who are afraid of its potential. As Moore put it very nicely, you are afraid of violence here, not of real violence in our daily life. To be shocked by violence depicted in the film is just an escape from real violence.

‘Marx u digitalnom dobu’

Durieux, Zagreb 2016.


Marx u digitalnom dobu. Dijalektički materijalizam na vratima tehnologije knjiga je koja propituje razumijevanje političke emancipacije uz pomoć novih tehnologija. Ona postavlja pitanje: kako nove tehnologije, posebice novi mediji, mogu pridonijeti demokratizaciji društva i emancipaciji manjinskih kultura? Pritom se sustavno i epistemološki precizno obrazlažu temeljna pitanja kao što su: politička emancipacija i emancipacijske politike na internetu, ideologija i njezina refleksija na probleme novih medija, promjene do kojih dolazi u strukturi i karakteru rada u doba kognitarijata, razumijevanje koncepta »virtualnosti«.

U knjizi se primjenjuje teorija brojnih autora, napose filozofa kao što su Martin Heidegger, Michel Foucault i Jacques Lacan, premošćujući pritom granicu između klasične filozofije i sfere tehnologije. Studija je vrlo precizna i elokventna elaboracija suvremenog tehno–znanstvenog, političko–ekonomskog poretka. Pritom ona ukazuje na nekoliko ključnih problema s razumijevanjem uloge i konteksta novih tehnologija. Prije svega, riječ je o ozbiljnom utemeljenju teorije novih medija iz perspektive kritike političke ekonomije. Drugo, o svakom se od ključnih problema elaboriranih u knjizi stvaraju pretpostavke za primjenu filozofskog i fenomenološkog pristupa novim medijima. Studija se naslanja na novoobnovljeni teorijski interes i školu dijalektičkog materijalizma (S. Žižek, A. Badiou). I konačno studija, neizravno, raspravlja i s hrvatskim kontekstom proučavanja novih medija, koji je kronično zarobljen u onome što je Heidegger nazivao »aktualnost«. Takvo razumijevanje novih medija u studijima komunikologije, mediologije, politologije i sociologije najčešće ne uspijeva sagledati svu širinu problema. Djelo je relevatna znanstvena studija koja će pridonijeti razumijevanju fenomena novih tehnologija.

‘Conversations with Žižek’

First published January 7th 2003


“An anecdote by Lacan recounts a chance remark made by Freud to Jung. Following an invitation from Clark University, the two psychoanalysts travelled to the United States and upon arrival in New York harbour Freud gestured towards the Statue of Liberty and said, ‘They don’t realize that we’re bringing them the plague’…”

Conversations with Žižek is a 2003 book by Glyn Daly, and is one of the best books that you can read as an introduction to Žižek’s work, and is most closely resembling some kind of a personal biography of his.

Slavoj Žižek: ‘Apocalypse With Or Without A Kingdom’

On Monday the 18th November 2019, the Gold Medal of Honorary Patronage was awarded to Slavoj Žižek by the University Philosophical Society. Following the presentation of the award, Žižek presented an address entitled ‘Apocalypse With Or Without A Kingdom‘. This recording contains the full address and the Q&A.

Slavoj Žižek is a Hegelian philosopher and Lacanian theoretical psychoanalyst. He is a professor of philosophy at The European Graduate School, a senior researcher at the Institute for Sociology and Philosophy at the University of Ljubljana, Global Distinguished Professor of German at New York University, International Director of the Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities, and one of the founders of the Society for Theoretical Psychoanalysis, Ljubljana.

The University Philosophical Society (UPS; Irish: Cumann Fealsúnachta Choláiste na Trionóide), commonly known as The Phil, is a student paper-reading and debating society in Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland. Founded in 1683, it is often referred to as the oldest student, collegial and paper-reading society in the world. Though famed for its Thursday night debates, the Phil regularly invites speakers and guests to address the society.