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Violence: Six Sideways Reflections

3.89  ·  Rating details ·  3,810 ratings  ·  271 reviews
Philosopher, cultural critic, and agent provocateur Slavoj Žižek constructs a fascinating new framework to look at the forces of violence in our world.

Using history, philosophy, books, movies, Lacanian psychiatry, and jokes, Slavoj Žižek examines the ways we perceive and misperceive violence. Drawing from his unique cultural vision, Žižek brings new light to the Paris riot
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Paperback, 272 pages
Published July 22nd 2008 by Picador (first published January 1st 2007)
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Average rating 3.89  · 
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 ·  3,810 ratings  ·  271 reviews


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BlackOxford
Oct 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
The Poetry of Dominance

Violence is a necessary if regrettable condition of civilisation. A few of us who enjoy the comforts of civilisation are uncomfortable with that reality. Such violence appears overtly from time to time but it exists continuously in subtle forms of coercion that sustain relationships of domination and exploitation which are what constitute civilisation. It is the threat of violence which keeps us secure, at least when we are not the recipient of the threat.

It is this that c
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Brad
Jul 21, 2011 rated it really liked it
One doesn't go to Slavoj Žižek for answers. One goes to him for questions. He raises them, then raises some more, and asks us to raise questions for every answer we get. That is his genius, and that's what makes him worth while. The interrogatives -- Who? What? Where? When? Why? and How? -- are his and our most powerful tools, and he challenges us to use them.

When I was a 4 year old boy, I wore a helmet for a year because I fractured my skull. That's the story I grew up with. "I" fractured my s
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Imogen
Aug 14, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: hipster assholes
I don't want to assert that 'the rock star of cultural theory' is full of shit, but y'know, Slavoj Žižek seems to me to be kind of full of shit.

Me: Hey Mr Žižek! What did you think of the last season of Lost?

Žižek: Well, in the context of a Hegelian dialectic, this work must be considered ultimately a usurpation/derivation of Freud's pathetic "death drive" mythos, if you get me. By which I mean, it's opposed to Nietzsche's ironic reading of the story of Job, but only in letter; not so much in s
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Zach
zizek thinks "the village" was a good movie
Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
I've read something like 16 Zizek books at this point. So this Itty Bitty Book served as a nice trip down memory lane. It's not all here by a long shot, but a lot of it is ; in it's shortened form.

And I'll be honest with you. Really up front. The little thing about subjective vs objective violence? Makes it pretty clear why the Z=Man said he'd vote for Trump. He really does believe (and shouldn't you? and don't you?) that it is the objective violence underlying and enabling the smooth functioni
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Jimmy
Here is a slightly patronizing way of summarizing the methodology of Slovenian philosopher, Slavoj Zizek; address a relevant social issue (such as violence) and certain ideological perspectives that have been applied to it, cut and paste seemingly disparate examples of high and low culture arbitrarily throughout the text, draw reaching connections between the two, and hopefully attempt to arrive at an intelligible conclusion or thesis. This became apparent during my reading of Violence, part of ...more
Sunny
Feb 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing
What a classy book. The book, as the name suggests is a study of violence but a massively intellectual look on things and often zizek puts a new spin on what you may consider to be themes which are quite pertinent at the moment. One of his key points is that there is something alluring about violence, that head for a head mentality which stops individuals from really thinking about what the right thing really is to do. Zizek is clearly more left of centre inclined and has huge gripes with the gl ...more
Carolyn
Jan 04, 2012 rated it did not like it
Last year I grew inexcusably lazy with philosophy, favoring watered-down texts infused with psychobabble and sociological schemata. Zizek was the worst offender on my bad-philosophers list. The sole purpose behind my absolute enamour with his writings was the potpurrian style of combining popular culture with historical philosophy. As my reading within his realm of work progressed, I realized that Zizek in fact does very little philosophizing of his own, aside from condemning marginalized groups ...more
Kate
Mar 03, 2009 rated it it was amazing
If you're ready to go along with Zizek for the ride...this book is sure to take you out of whatever box you're currently in and do to your box exactly what the cover of this book portrays.

He may be self-indulgent, but it's a nice blend of psych, linguistics and philosophy that makes his case complete.

Justin Evans
Dec 11, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: philosophy
Nobody is subject to such diminishing returns as Zizek, in large part because by the time I've finished this review he'll have published two books. 'Violence' makes a great point about how difficult it is to write about violence: if you don't make a big show about how sympathetic you are to victims of (what we usually call) violence, you look like a psychopath; if you do put on that show, you're unlikely to say anything interesting. So, he argues, you have to write about violence obliquely. He p ...more
Benoit Lelièvre
Feb 04, 2018 rated it liked it
Zizek's main appeal and problem is that he's an idiosyncratic thinker and he's incapable of making his point without referring to pop culture. But it's what we love about him, right? His capacity of making us understand difficult things through what we know and love. Zizek is trying his damnedest not to do that here. This is very academic and while I've enjoyed his railing on invisible, systematic violence we all revel in (his passages on charity and philanthropy were absolutely scathing), but h ...more
David Sarkies
Apr 01, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
Why We Fight
2 April 2017

I must be starting to get a bit tired of Zizek, not because he isn't a bad writer, nor because he isn't confronting, but rather because, as another reviewer suggested, it has more to do with the law of diminishing returns than anything else. There was a time when I thought that I should read everything by an author that I loved (or admired) until I discovered that not everything that a great author writes is actually any good. In fact, like everything else, pretty much a
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Robert Wechsler
Dec 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
This is the first book by the prolific Slavoj Žižek that I have read. The most valuable aspect of his writing appears to be its provocation of thought. Žižek’s examples are often questionable, his arguments sometimes off the wall and the train of his thought off the tracks, but he has a brilliance that keeps making you think about things you haven’t thought about before, or at least not in a particular way.

This book is not about violence really, but then again, it's about a different sort of vio
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Jeremy
Sep 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: philosophy
Zizek often seems like a mixed bag from what I've read/listened to of his thinking in the past, but this for the most part is actually pretty strong. His ideas about violence are, like most things Zizek, idiosyncratic; a blend of critical theory, Hegelian philosophy and psychoanalysis while at the same time a critical rejection and modification of each of those thing. But unlike some of his other writings, this one never gets too bogged down in tedious Lacanian/Hegelian nomenclature and he stick ...more
David
Jan 15, 2009 rated it liked it
It feels more than a little strange to be reading and enjoying a book calling for the violent overthrow of capitalism and liberal democracy when my most fervent political hope of the moment is that Barack Obama will re-start the American economy by passing an effective stimulus bill, and humanize American capitalism by re-regulating big business and enacting some form of universal health care legislation. But I did enjoy the book and that is what Zizek is calling for here isn't it? Or is it?

The
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Mack Hayden
Jan 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: politics, philosophy
This is the first Žižek book I've read and it's nice to say the hype surrounding this guy is valid. In under three hundred pages, he spells out a lot of what keeps violence going century after century with intelligence, astute cultural references and good humor. His analysis of behind-the-scenes objective and systemic violence creating the more subjective explosions of violence we all react to is, in my estimation, spot on. There are so many broader forces of injustice that dangerously register ...more
Nina
Mar 09, 2009 rated it it was ok
Considering all the praise Zizek is getting these years, I was very disappointed with this book. This book is structured around six 'sideways glances on violence', supposedly beccause there is something inherently obscure about the nature of violence - fair enough, but Zizeks points are either fairly commonplace - You know he's not the first to talk about "violence inherit in the system", Monty Python did that as well only funnier - or else obscure and overthought. I really don't know how Zizek ...more
Jonfaith
Jun 05, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: samizdat, theory
More a series of jabs and body blows than a choreographed diplay of sytemic rigour, Zizke succeeds in provoking thought, often after fomenting outrage. It certainly works. His thoughts on Israel and the Palestinian Authority were sage. Snaring ontological love in the mesh of institutional violence was a bit beyond me.
David Bjelland
Short version: a digressive, willfully obscure little book that offers plenty in the way of intellectual pyrotechnics but not much to say on making the world a less horrible place.

Very, very long version:

So, I might need to start with some quick backstory on how a well-intentioned search for a cogent leftist articulation of "structural violence" led to this.

A couple months ago, I finished Stephen Pinker's The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined, and based on the amount of tim
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David Rush
Feb 17, 2012 rated it it was ok
This review is a bit of a confessional since I think the major failing of this book is me reading it, sorry about that.

However, I learned a lot by reading this, one thing I just now realized is why I was never a good student in school. It is so much clearer now, but on any assignment I would become focused on individual bits and not step back and take in the big picture.

This relates to this book because I could never get past Žižek's colorful quirks to get a feel for his grand scheme of society
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Stephanie Berbec
Apr 14, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: philosophy, own
Our Žižek collection takes up nearly an entire shelf on it’s own. Steven enjoys reading him. I’m familiar enough with him from reading excerpts, hearing lectures, and from conversations with Steven—but I’ve never read a book in it’s entirety until Violence.

According to Žižek, violence takes three forms: subjective/“physical” violence (the most visible of the three, pertaining to crime, mass-murder and terror), objective/“ideological” violence (pertaining to language and its form; i.e., hate-spe
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Sitharthan Sriharan
Mar 08, 2012 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: No one
Recommended to Sitharthan by: a random internet forum
This is my second book I have read by Slavoj Zizek. My first was "First as Tragedy, Then as Farce". I have to say I was attracted to Zizek for his style a bit, but also because I've been wanting to read some work by contemporary continental philosophers. I have to say though, after this book, I'm already getting tired of Zizek's "shitty political interventions", to use his own words from a guardian interview a couple years ago. If you're trying to look for philosophical substance in Zizek, I don ...more
Sebastian Radu
With international relations - and politics in general - being more nuanced than ever, it's becoming more difficult to keep cool-headed and not give in to reactionary, extreme or simply impulsive opinions. In 'Violence', however, Zizek manages to put out some balanced and well-constructed ideas on some significant violent events from recent history, such as the Holocaust, the Paris student riots, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the current terrorist attacks. Although he often invokes his fa ...more
LeeFrances
Mar 07, 2013 rated it did not like it
Shelves: knowledge, revolution
This is the first Zizek book I attempted to read. I got most of the way through it before deciding that it wasn't worth it to finish. The way he writes was incredibly difficult to understand, and I have an English Lit/Anthropology degree so "difficult to understand" is something I'm well practiced in. It felt like he didn't have one, or even two or three, main thesis. The work felt scattered and incoherent. Every 30 or 40 pages, I would find an argument that made sense and I felt akin to but see ...more
Andrew
Apr 22, 2012 rated it did not like it
Three stars purely for some interesting insights about the banlieue riots, and a nice little observation about the Abu Ghraib pictures as making us think more of a performance art piece in a NY gallery than torture. Even that is outrageously generous. I have had enough of Zizek's books at this point. If you have read one, you have read them all. From now on I'm only going to bother with his occasional essays and journalism, the effort expended on his books is simply not worth it.

Longer review h
...more
Jake
Sep 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: book-club
How is it that I can disagree with so much in this book yet give it 5 stars? Maybe there is no right or wrong answer to this question, maybe the questions we're asking are wrong. At certain points I forgot what the hell Zizek was talking about as he moved from philosphy and politics to TV shows and so on and so on, but I was always entertained and made to think just a little bit differently. That's good. It brings to mind the classic movie 'Dances With Wolves' starring Kevin Costner. Just kiddin ...more
Oliver Bateman
Nov 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing
what can i say? it's more zizek being zizek, i guess. except for THE SUBLIME OBJECT, i can't really tell you where one book ends and another begins. he's great at against-the-grain insights, too great in fact, because at a certain point the brilliant-cause-they're-so-contrary conclusions stack one atop the other and you're left reading his work as if he were speaking it, by which i mean with lots and lots and lots and lots of nasal sniffing and huffing.
Matt
Zizek manages to integrate so many different modalities of thought. His points include that violence can be individual but the more dangerous and insidious types of violence are the systemic violence. Systemic violence includes oppression around class, and racism or other forms of oppression. It's interesting to think of the kind of violence that we as a society so often condone and thus ignore.
Ibrahim Niftiyev
Usually, I learn new things from Zizek and this time was not an exception. However, I would say, I did not enjoy this reading because of his incoherent and scattered English. Some parts of the book are not in line with the main idea of the book which is the types and patterns of the violence in our world. So, a lot of speculations in his argumentations but normal for philosophers.
xDEAD ENDx
Nov 03, 2014 rated it liked it
The sad thing is that I'm actually sort of in agreement with Zizek's conclusion that the most profound form of revolutionary upheaval (or, violence) may be in "doing nothing". Some of his provocation is pretty disgusting though, and geeze, just drop the cultural critic bullshit.
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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
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“A German officer visited Picasso in his Paris studio during the Second World War. There he saw Guernica and, shocked at the modernist «chaos» of the painting, asked Picasso: «Did you do this?» Picasso calmly replied: «No, you did this!»” 135 likes
“What about animals slaughtered for our consumption? who among us would be able to continue eating pork chops after visiting a factory farm in which pigs are half-blind and cannot even properly walk, but are just fattened to be killed? And what about, say, torture and suffering of millions we know about, but choose to ignore? Imagine the effect of having to watch a snuff movie portraying what goes on thousands of times a day around the world: brutal acts of torture, the picking out of eyes, the crushing of testicles -the list cannot bear recounting. Would the watcher be able to continue going on as usual? Yes, but only if he or she were able somehow to forget -in an act which suspended symbolic efficiency -what had been witnessed. This forgetting entails a gesture of what is called fetishist disavowal: "I know it, but I don't want to know that I know, so I don't know." I know it, but I refuse to fully assume the consequences of this knowledge, so that I can continue acting as if I don't know it.” 117 likes
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