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First as Tragedy, Then as Farce

3.77  ·  Rating details ·  3,707 ratings  ·  293 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, 157 pages
Published 2009 by Verso
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Riku Sayuj
Nov 07, 2013 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
Oct 15, 2012 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
Oct 18, 2012 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 25, 2013 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
Feb 10, 2012 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,
Oct 28, 2009 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
Jan 13, 2015 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 S ...more
Feb 10, 2010 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 tha ...more
Cody Sexton
Aug 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is a book about the failures of liberalism, in particular the failures of liberal democratic capitalism. According to its author liberalism has died and he articulates his reasons for believing so while offering us a possible alternative, namely, a return to communism. The only true revolutionary act he says, "involves not a gradual process, but a repetitive movement, a movement of repeating the beginning again and again." But as far as I can tell there is no viable alternative to capitalis ...more
David Sarkies
Oct 08, 2013 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
Mr Shahabi
Mar 11, 2019 rated it liked it
I like Zizek's writing, he rants about alot of nonsense but he also have some deeply sighted perspectives as well, of course he always starts off with the same way: Fuck Capitalism!!! Then he starts off gradually stating how evil it is.. Communism is the way... Blah blagh

But he's method is entertaining as always

Drink tea
Oct 23, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: books-i-own, žižek
An eye-opener for those whose eyes are already slightly opened. That is to say, if you have ever found yourself questioning the self-evidence of capitalism as the 'natural' economic system, you are likely to take a lot from this book.

Žižek tackles a heavy topic: is capitalism really the best-among-imperfect economic systems? Is capitalism 'sustainable' in the sense that it can steer us past the looming ecological and financial disasters and ensure the survival and well-being of the specie
Dec 04, 2012 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
Tanuj Solanki
Nov 24, 2012 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 27, 2011 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: No One
Poorly written, sloppy sloppy ideology, false disjunctions, cites wikipedia... it is not worth my time to write out all the reasons this book is an utter failure. However, as a gift, here is the only valuable insight in entire book: capitalism maintains itself through "green" and "humanitarian" capitalist projects that don't challenge the actual roots of capitalist exploitation. I just saved you money and time... you are welcome.
Feb 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is all over the place:
25% has a tendency to loop into academic circular theorizing
25% dreary... as communists we lost, how/can we win?
50% a great collection of ideas and tidbits from culture, philosophy, and history that I wouldn't have bumped into otherwise.
Aug 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
Somehow I can disagree with most of what Zizek says in most of his books and he still remains a favorite. This one was written in the peak of the recent financial crisis. In it he has his usual weird jokes and counterintuitive points. He also predicts that the west will soon succumb to authoritarian capitalism like exists in Russia. Fun stuff.
Feb 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
An incredible, breathtaking book.

The title is, of course, a reference to the famous opening of Marx's The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon,

Hegel remarks somewhere that all great world-historic facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.

The titular tragedy and farce are the 9/11 attacks and 2008 financial crash respectively (with Zizek even noting how similar the speech Bush gave in 9/11 and the speech after the cras
Mark Hebden
Feb 10, 2012 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
Feb 14, 2011 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
Mar 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
i have to read this again in order to really grasp it all but great insights and eye-openers, relatively accessible introduction to Zizekian writings...
Oct 16, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a very accessible book with a good premise and a good structure. Zizek as he is of course never really sets his foot anywhere else than on the edge of controversy, but mostly manages to balance imo. Capitalist ideological stabilization is always an interesting topic and a novel approach to escaping it is also welcome. This review isn't coherent, it's almost 1 am.
Clarke Bolt
Dec 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
“So, when even a great anti-communist like Kravchenko can in a certain sense return to his faith, our message today should be: do not be afraid, join us, come back! You’ve had your anti-communist fun, and you are pardoned for it — time to get serious once again!”

I have been on the anti-capitalist train for a while. I think I am a communist now. Thank you, Slavoj.
Jul 23, 2011 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 th ...more
Matthew Linton
May 14, 2010 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
Feb 01, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: politics
I bought this because it was billed, somewhere, as 'Žižek for Beginners'; I probably won't read any more Žižek. Across this book's 157 pages, Žižek rambles on about capitalism, communism, liberalism, populism, radicalism, finance, the French and Haitian revolutions, religious fundamentalism, Obama, and many, many other things. There was quite a bit that I found interesting, and some parts were genuinely (intentionally, I hope and think) funny.

His main argument is that liberal capitalism has die
Nov 14, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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.
Jocelyn Koehler
May 09, 2012 rated it it was ok
If I had known that Zizek was apt to compare Berlusconi to Kung-Fu Panda, I'd have read him earlier. That said, he hustles big words when small words would do, and while his diagnosis of the financial crisis isn't wrong, it doesn't offer much in the way of practical responses.
Aug 17, 2010 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.
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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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