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First as Tragedy, Then as Farce

3.8  ·  Rating Details ·  2,508 Ratings  ·  206 Reviews
Billions of dollars have been hastily poured into the global banking system in a frantic attempt at financial stabilization. So why has it not been possible to bring the same forces to bear in addressing world poverty and environmental crisis?

In this take-no-prisoners analysis, Slavoj Žižek frames the moral failures of the modern world in terms of the epoch-making events o
Paperback, 1st edition, 157 pages
Published October 2009 by Verso (first published 2009)
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Riku Sayuj
Sep 24, 2015 Riku Sayuj rated it really liked it
Recommended to Riku by: Tanuj Solanki

The Wolf and the Lamb

Wolf, meeting with a Lamb astray from the fold, resolved not to lay violent hands on him, but to find some plea to justify to the Lamb the Wolf's right to eat him. He thus addressed him: "Sirrah, last year you grossly insulted me." "Indeed," bleated the Lamb in a mournful tone of voice, "I was not then born." Then said the Wolf, "You feed in my pasture." "No, good sir," replied the Lamb, "I have not yet tasted grass." Again said the Wolf, "You drink of my well." "No," exclai
To the uninitiated, Žižek is a philosophical comedian, traipsing around semiotics and Gramsci and salivating over the critical analysis of pop culture. This is a damned shame. No doubt the man kicks ideological hornet's nests, but he very often has something intelligent to say. Here is Žižek for the beginner - he is critical, trenchant, accessible and even a little hopeful. He gives a shellacking to the repeated failures of unrestrained capitalism in the events of 2001 and the crash of 2008, but ...more
Oct 15, 2012 Trevor rated it really liked it
The first line of this book is, “The title of this book is intended as an elementary IQ test for the reader: if the first association it generates is the vulgar anti-communist cliché—‘You are right—today, after the tragedy of twentieth-century totalitarianism, all the talk about a return to communism can only be farcical!’—then I sincerely advise you to stop reading here.”

This book has two chapters, one is called, It’s the Ideology, Stupid! And the other The Communist Hypothesis. I didn’t reall
Nov 08, 2013 Geoff rated it it was amazing
I won’t try to convince you that Žižek is right, though I believe he is onto something- but I would like to convince you to read this book. I think it is an important little volume, for many reasons, among them being that this is an urgent Žižek, the cultural critic at his most honed. He is talking to you. This is a very distilled, clarified Žižek, almost without the heady historico-philosophical digressions (...almost) that bewilder some readers, myself included, in his more theory-based work. ...more
Oct 26, 2013 Jonfaith rated it really liked it
Shelves: theory
We are forced to live as if we were free. -- John Gray

First as Tragedy, Then as Farce is my favorite work yet by Žižek. Despite its many passages being recycled in later works, there is a clarity here which moved me. The specific grasp was Žižek's viewing the newly inaugurated President Obama. Certainly the philosopher fears a hegemon with a human face, he rightly critiques the vaunted 2009 speech in Cairo. The philosopher then betrays himself as a sentimentalist by comparing the 2008 Obama vict
Nov 13, 2009 Nick rated it it was amazing
Wow, what a mind! This almost feels like a Communist Manifesto for the 21st century.

The premise of the book is simple: Capitalism sucks, here are a lot of reasons why, and here are some reasons why we should give Communism (not socialism!) another chance. His basic question upon which he bases the whole book is a good one: why is it that we have now accepted the capitalist system when only forty years ago we were still weighing other options? What has happened in contemporary society (i.e. what
Feb 16, 2016 Declan rated it really liked it
We live, it's clear, in the age of the problem without a solution; the Manichean dilemma in which every proposition is as unconvincing as its opposite. Syria, for example, has a President who should be deposed. His crimes against the people he purports to rule are immense and brutal. But, post-Iraq. post-Libya, is the case so convincing? Look at those who violently oppose them? Would a country in which Daesh had complete control be an improvement? What about the smaller groups such as the Free ...more
Apr 19, 2012 Bruce rated it it was ok
A book review. A dialogue.

Žižek: The title of this book is intended as an elementary IQ test for the reader:...

Me: Wait, I just opened the book, why are you already picking a fight with me?

Žižek: ...if the first association it generates is the vulgar anti-communist cliche -- "You are right -- today, after the tragedy of twentieth-century totalitarianism, all the talk about a return to communism can only be farcical!" -- then I sincerely advise you to stop here.

Me: But, but... I was only kidding,
Feb 10, 2010 Bo rated it really liked it
One of Zizek's most topical, readable, coherant, and reigned-in books. Throughout, he skewers some of the irrationalities, embedded contradictions & structural global class hypocrisies embedded in international capitalism. He convincingly describes the bank bailout as an amnesiac continuation of spiral descent of global financial markets, that effectively defends the institutions from any possible repercussions, and psychoanalyzes cultural and political reactions to the bailout. He concludes ...more
David Sarkies
Jan 12, 2016 David Sarkies rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Left Wingers and Intellectuals
Recommended to David by: I discovered him somewhere
Shelves: philosophy
The New Aristocracy
12 January 2015

The title of this book comes from a quote from Hegel (whom Zizek references quite a lot throughout this text) in relation to the collapse of the German aristocracy in the mid-nineteenth century. The reason for the statement was that historical events always happen in pairs – the first is a tragedy (in reference to the collapse of the French aristocracy) and the second time it occurs it is farcical. In using this reference Zizek indicated that the attacks of 9/1
Tanuj Solanki
Dec 18, 2015 Tanuj Solanki rated it really liked it
Shelves: 21-century, 2009
The rock star philosopher of our times writes yet another book censuring the liberal democratic capitalist hegemony, using precisely its recent shows of weakness (9/11 and 2008) to drive home his single point agenda - communism as the only alternative.

The critique of the current order is precise. But the presentation of the new order is almost you-have-to-take-it-coz-I-am-saying-so. This, I find, is a common thing in Zizek's books. Many here have criticized the opening of the book, though my spe
Apr 29, 2013 Mark rated it liked it
It's a kind gesture that the author admits his purported intent upfront in the introduction, this is indeed not recommended reading for anyone for whom the term "communism" holds immediate connotations of despotism.

That said, Zizek's brand of politics doesn't preclude appreciation of his writing and position, at least until the last chapter of the book. What is argued for here is a revival of the radical left, against the backdrop of postmodern absurdity which, for Zizek, is best embodied by th
Nick Wellings
Sep 19, 2013 Nick Wellings rated it liked it
This book is Žižek howling into the wind.

I am old fashioned though and am precisely the type of reader the author warns about, the same reader he charges in the first paragraph to toss the book aside if Communism = bad in his mind. Well, sorry. I am politically and culturally naïve. Communism = bad in my uneducated mind.

I get that Capitalism is pretty nasty in many ways too, and Žižek does a good job of listing them. Count me in as one of the clueless sheeple because, sorry, I count myself ver
Matthew Linton
May 18, 2010 Matthew Linton rated it liked it
Zizek's written work is like pre-packaged trail mix: there are parts of his thought that are brilliant and delicious, but in equal measure, there are other elements that I vehemently disagree with or find so unintelligible that I immediately want to give up reading his work. "First as Tragedy" is not an exception to the trail mix principle.

In chorus with Alain Badiou, Zizek hopes to usher in a new era of anti-capitalist protest leading to the overthrow or rejection of capitalism in favor of a n
Aug 17, 2014 Mark rated it it was amazing
Shelves: politics, philosophy
Firstly, this book has the worst opening paragraph of any book I’ve ever read. It demands that the person reading the book should stop right there and not bother, unless they already conform to a belief in communism. Not only is that self-defeating, it is arrogant and separatist.

That aside this is a very passionate cry for communism, and does for socialism what atheism does for agnosticism. It’s all or nothing with Zizek which can be viewed with passion or cynicism as is your wont. There is a lo
Nov 15, 2009 Kyle rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 15, 2011 Jesse rated it liked it
Zizek is the most popular communist intellectual in U.S. history. Why? Because he is loud, tells potty jokes and gesticulates like a madman (like, not coincidentally, all of the most popular U.S. comedians e.g. Carlin, Lewis Black, Dane Cook etc.). I don't know about you, but I am not mentally taxed whatsoever by this seemingly endless, empty rambling about various cultural phenomena without any logical connections except through Zizek's dogmatic Hegelian insight. Accordingly, Zizek is basically ...more
As our nations prepare to meet this Friday in ferocious World Cup combat, I'm familiarizing myself with what could be Slovenia's most famous export. I mean, now that we're mortal enemies I gotta have something to yell at the Slovenians, right? Hopefully this guy'll give me good heckling material.
Hammam Nimrawi
May 10, 2016 Hammam Nimrawi rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
لا شيء أكثر بعثا للكآبة من ترجمة رديئة لكتاب كنت متحمسا لقراءته.. بعض الصفحات لا تفهم منها أي جملة بالمرة. أضطررت لإعادة قراءة الكتاب مترجما للإنجليزية.
Oct 31, 2010 Brixton rated it liked it
Shelves: cameras
This book has given me my new favourite thought-experiment: the philosophical implications of whether Slavoj Žižek saw "Kung Fu Panda" in the theater or if he went out and rented the dvd.
Dec 21, 2009 Naeem rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Evgenia, Manu, Julie, sarah B., Sara-Maria, Steph, Julie, Betsy, Daksha, Kiel, Will, Shaun, Jo-el,
Recommended to Naeem by: Zillah
I find it hard to review this book. It is similar to Naomi Klein's Shock Doctrine in that it synthesizes contemporary history from about the fall of the actually socialist countries to the present. And, it is a highly coherent synthesis in which Klein's book plays a small role. But, unlike Shock Doctrine, the history-theory ratio favors theory.

Theoretically it is the usual mix of astounding Zizekian pyrotechnics -- Freud, Lacan, the usual mix of French theorists, Kant, Hegel, and Marx. And as us
Dariusz Płochocki
Zizek na pytanie, czy dziś potrzebujemy socjalizmu, czy kapitalizmu odpowie wprost, wyłącznie komunizmu, cikeawe studium kryzysu, zarówno prawicy, jak i lewicy w dobie kryzysu 2008 r.
Dec 21, 2012 Cameron rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: people concerned with modern capitalism
Some good ideas about the state of today's political order (especially in the U.S.) loosely strong together with news reports as well as theorist and pop culture references. The book focuses in particular on America's neoliberal capitalism, in large part within the context of the late 2000s financial crisis (especially the massive corporate bank bailouts), with focus on major developments in the late 20th century as well. He is critical of a 'utopian' vision for global capitalism.

Even moving be
Jul 23, 2011 Malcolm rated it really liked it
The last really compelling Žižek I read was The Ticklish Subject (published in 1999), and in the last ten years I have become increasingly irritated with his reliance on Lacan to make sense of materialist politics and our place in the material world, but even more so by his tendency to argue by analogy (and concede a bit of the pot and kettle in that criticism, according to some who have critiqued me). But this, alongside In Defence of Lost Causes (at least according to the reviews – it is in ...more
(7/10) Zizek is kind of an academic rockstar right now, and it's easy to see why: he combines political radicalism, Lacan, and pop culture in a way that's both exciting and mystifying, and his writing manages to be fairly accessible without seeming dumbed down. There are also a lot of genuine insights in this book concerning the current state of capitalism, and it's worth reading for them alone.

I do have to argue with a big part of Zizek's ideas here, and that's his condemnation of humanism base
Mar 04, 2015 Leonardo rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own-digital
Es un libro muy interesante, aunque me resultó algo complicado por momentos. Me parece que en general estas cosas tan marxistas me marean un poco a veces. Me deja la sensación que tiene más categorías que ideas. Tal vez si hubiera leído más Marx, Kant, Hegel, Lukács, Benjamin y algún que otro Marxista hubiera entendido mejor. Pero no me sentí falto de formación, me sentí falto de categorías. Tampoco creo no haberlo entendido, ni siquiera me pareció un libro difícil. Pero por momentos tuve que ir ...more
Jul 30, 2011 Rob rated it liked it
Shelves: politics, left, philosophy
I am writing this review a week after the terrible massacre in Norway.
I may as well reveal myself to be politically a left social democrat. I dislike political violence left or right. I think it ineffective except in very limited revolutionary situations. I do think that we can reform capitalism until it is a substantially different system. On many issues I therefore disagree with Zizek. He is a Leninist. I am not.

Coincedently I have done a lot of John Gray recently and I find a strange likeness
PJ Wallachia
Sep 12, 2016 PJ Wallachia rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Comrades of the World
> "Western Buddhism" is just such a fetish: it enables you to fully participate in the frantic capitalist game while sustaining the perception that you are not really in it, that you are well aware how worthless the whole spectacle is, since what really matters is the peace of the inner Self to which you know you can always withdraw ...

> One may think that the fetish is what really matters, as in the case of the Western Buddhist unaware that the "truth" of his existence lies in the very so
Jun 19, 2013 Bruce rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Ferda Nihat Koksoy
Feb 10, 2016 Ferda Nihat Koksoy rated it really liked it
Shelves: philosophy
-2008 Krizi, politik ve İDEOLOJİK'tir; kurtarma planları ise YÜZYILIN SOYGUNU'dur. Artık krizler o kadar sık tekrarlanmaktadır ki olay Trajediden öteye geçerek KOMEDİ safhasında sahnelenmektedir.

-ÇİN devleti, ABD kapitalinin İŞÇİ SINIFI DEVLETİ'dir.


-ŞOV gerçeğin, ROL ise kişinin yerini almaktadır:



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Slavoj Žižek is a Slovene sociologist, philosopher, and cultural critic.

He was born in Ljubljana, Slovenia (then part of SFR Yugoslavia). He received a Doctor of Arts in Philosophy from the University of Ljubljana and studied psychoanalysis at the University of Paris VIII with Jacques-Alain Miller and François Regnault. In 1990 he was a candidate with the party Liberal Democracy of Slovenia for P
More about Slavoj Žižek...

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“On the information sheet in a New York hotel, I recently read: 'Dear guest! To guarantee that you will fully enjoy your stay with us, this hotel is totally smoke-free. For any infringement of this regulation, you will be charged $200.' The beauty of this formulation, taken literally, is that you are to be punished for refusing to fully enjoy your stay.” 49 likes
“Populism is ultimately sustained by the frustrated exasperation of ordinary people, by the cry "I don't know what's going on, but I've just had enough of it! It cannot go on! It must stop!” 15 likes
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