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Reviewed by:
  • Repeating Žižek ed. by Agon Hamza
  • Jacob Blevins
Agon Hamza, ed. Repeating Žižek. Durham: Duke UP, 2015. 304 pp.

Critical analyses of Žižek are difficult. On the one hand, Žižek is one of the most important thinkers of our time, frequently brilliant and always provocative. On the other hand, Žižek is at times intellectually lazy, including careless errors in his work (referring to Steven Spielberg's Star Wars trilogy, for example). Perhaps, the most difficult aspect of Žižek is the fact that he is always updating and improvising, always applying the ideas of others to new cultural contexts. In many ways, that is the very strength of Žižek's work, but it is at times inconsistent, internally contradictory. Deciphering the intratextual nature of the work is in itself a mammoth task, but it is one that can be insightful and quite enlightening at times.

So with the edited volume of essays, Repeating Žižek, edited by Agon Hamza (a past collaborator of Žižek), we have an attempt to "formalize" and, I would argue, to systemize Žižek's work. The collection is arranged into four sections, critical areas to which Žižek has contributed: Philosophy, Psychoanalysis, Politics, and Religion. There are a total of 16 essays and an additional introduction by Hamza and an afterword by Žižek himself. Also worth noting is the book itself is part of the "SIC" series, edited by Žižek for Duke University Press. Hamza makes his purpose clear in the introduction: "I argue that the main task of philosophers who are Žižekians, and work on the premises of a Žižekian philosophy, is to formalize his thought" (3). He also justifies his categorical arrangement of the volume to the "structure of Žižek's thought" (4). He argues that to allow Žižek's philosophy to transcend time and its "interventionist nature is to subject his system to a rigorous formalization" (4). The idea of repetition applies to Žižek's own repetition of others as well as to our own repetition of Žižek.

This introduction lays out the intentions of the book, and those intentions are somewhat problematic. There are some underlying critical assumptions that are never fleshed out enough to defend the book. Firstly, the prioritization of formalizing and systemizing a philosophy falls exactly into the Western truth-seeking tradition that Derrida saw as a major issue with Western philosophy as a whole. Hamza insists on using Žižek's own work [End Page 594] to justify the volume's analysis of Žižek, a kind of circular meta-logic that just does not seem to add great support to Hamza's purpose. That said, he does acknowledge that Žižek himself shows a certain disregard for philosophical systemization. Despite the fact Hamza says explicitly "this volume is not meant to be a defense of Žižek" (1), that is exactly what the volume appears to be: an attempt to formalize Žižek's frequently informal philosophy. The problem I have, as a reviewer who has great admiration for Žižek, is that formalization undermines the fluidity of Žižek that makes him special, that makes him so intellectual engaging, that allows him to essentially re-make and re-cast previous philosophers into his own immediate purpose. This is what makes Žižek…well, Žižek. Feeling the need to make Žižek fit into a philosophical form or structure, in fact, undermines Žižek himself. And for that reason, and the fact that Hamza does not adequately explain why formalizing Žižek is necessary, the volume's stated purpose is not all that convincing.

Still, would I read this volume, use this volume in my own work? Absolutely. The individual essays, though often trying to reconcile paradox of one kind or another, are thoughtful and quite insightful in various ways. So many of the essays in the volume explore the complex manner Žižek frequently reads others like Lacan, Badieu, Hegel, Derrida and even Plato. Frank Ruda's "How to Repeat Plato? For a Platonism of the Non-All" is a particularly strong piece in the "Part...


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