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Badiou, Zizek, and Political Transformations

The Cadence of Change

Johnston, Adrian

Publication Year: 2009

Alain Badiou and Slavoj Žižek together have emerged as two of Europe’s most significant living philosophers. In a shared spirit of resistance to global capitalism, both are committed to bringing philosophical reflection to bear upon present day political circumstances. These thinkers are especially interested in asking what consequences the supposed twentieth century demise of communism entails for leftist political theory in the early twenty first century.

Published by: Northwestern University Press

Series: Studies in Phenomenology and Existential Philosophy


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pp. xi

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Preface: “Be Reasonable: Demand the Impossible!”—The Contemporary Importance of Badiou and Žižek

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pp. xiii-xxvi

For any concerned leftist living through the current conjuncture, Walter Benjamin’s evocative description of the “angel of history” can’t but seem fitting to press into the service of conveying an oppressive, immobilizing pessimism hanging heavily in the air of the prevailing Zeitgeist. A tired hopelessness afflicts even those on the Left who don’t consciously register this resigned exhaustion. The Benjaminian angel’s...

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pp. xxv-xxvi

Given that Badiou, Žižek, and Political Transformations: The Cadence of Change deals with the volatile terrain of politics, I feel it’s important to date this text. The original version of chapter 3 of this book was written in fall 2002 and was intended to appear as part of my previous book, Žižek’s Ontology: A Transcendental Materialist Theory of Subjectivity (Northwestern ...

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Introduction: The Badiouian- Žižekian Politburo—Political Interventions in the Shadow of Lacan

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pp. xxvii-xxxii

Over the past several years, Badiou and Žižek have emerged together as two of Europe’s most important living thinkers. They are both key agenda- setters for various discussions in contemporary Continental philosophy. Despite their differences, Badiou and Žižek, who are actively engaged in dialogue with each other, have a great deal in common, including a shared commitment to...

Part 1. Alain Badiou: From Event to Act

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1. The Quick and the Dead: Badiou and the Split Speeds of Transformation

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pp. 5-36

Two particular lowest common denominators, among many, of Badiou and Žižek’s ways of thinking politics are of interest here: one, their shared conviction that any genuine reworking of a system, in terms of real and true political transformations, can issue only from the unprecedented occurrence of a gesture separate or subtracted...

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2. One Must Have Confidence That the Other Does Not Exist: Select Preconditions for Events and Acts in Contemporary Circumstances

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pp. 37-81

In his early Maoist reflections on politics and ideology from the 1970s, Badiou decisively denounces the tendency of many French theorists of the period to portray statist power as a monolithic colossus overshadowing the relatively weak, feeble masses, disparate and dispersed crowds whose sole option for defanged rebellion is the “intimate revolt” of desiring away in the dark corners and recesses of their depoliticized libidinal economies.1 He vehemently asserts...

Part 2. Slavoj Žižek: From Act to Event

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3. The Cynic’s Fetish: Žižek and the Dynamics of Belief

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pp. 85-126

One of the most obvious and oft-repeated objections to the general methodological procedure of Žižek is that he uncritically assumes the legitimacy of casually sliding back and forth between, on the one hand, Freudian-Lacanian metapsychology, and, on the other hand, analyses of cultural and political phenomena. According to this line of criticism (which, arguably, could just as easily be raised...

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4. From the Spectacular Act to the Vanishing Act: The Politics of Lacanian Theory

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pp. 127-160

After viewing Astra Taylor’s recently released documentary film on him, those familiar with Žižek might be left with the false impression that they’ve heard it all before. Here as elsewhere, Žižek’s approach perhaps risks striking some as being much like that of a professional comedian, not only in terms of content...

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Appendix A: “Let a Thousand Flowers Bloom!”: Some Brief Remarks on and Responses to Žižek’s “Badiou: Notes from an Ongoing Debate”

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pp. 161-173

In his new textual intervention “Badiou: Notes from an Ongoing Debate,” Žižek directly engages with my reading of Badiou elaborated here in chapter 1 (“The Quick and the Dead: Badiou and the Split Speeds of Transformation”). While agreeing with much of what I advance in this analysis of Badiou’s account of change...

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Appendix B: Slavoj Žižek, “An Answer to Two Questions”

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pp. 174-230

I took very seriously the long series of Adrian Johnston’s questions—so seriously, in fact, that already my effort to answer two of them spilled over into a long text. Here, then, are my two answers. Each of ...


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pp. 231-252

Works Cited

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pp. 253-268


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pp. 269-277

E-ISBN-13: 9780810163645
Print-ISBN-13: 9780810125698

Page Count: 312
Publication Year: 2009

Edition: 1
Series Title: Studies in Phenomenology and Existential Philosophy