Though he does refer to very recent pop culture and political examples, the problems that Žižek addresses are sadly likely to prove durable: environmental crisis, growing economic inequality, problems surrounding intellectual property, and advances in science that challenge our sense of what it means to be human.
Slavoj Žižek, Living in the End Times, updated paperback ed. (New York and London: Verso, 2011).
The philosopher and cultural critic Slavoj Žižek has put reviewers of his latest book, Living in the End Times, in an awkward position. In a profile in the Guardian shortly after the release of the original (significantly shorter) hardback edition, he expressed deep misgivings about the more popular political and cultural commentary that has done so much to make him an academic celebrity. In particular, he singled out Living in the End Times for critique, dismissing huge chunks of it as “bullshit.”
I did not find Living in the End Times to be “bullshit.” As a long-time reader of Žižek’s work, however, I think I have some idea of why he might think it was. A huge part of Žižek’s appeal, it seems to me, is not simply the jokes and pop culture references that he sprinkles throughout his work. Rather, it is the great enjoyment and satisfaction that he clearly derives from his theoretical work. For him, working through the complexities of Hegel is not a boring task that he artificially spices up with off-color stories or movie references. It’s fun, and the other fun stuff naturally grows out of it.
From this perspective, making a joke isn’t merely a way to relieve the tedium of philosophy, but an integral part of the theoretical task—in fact, one could even say that for Žižek, the most radical and insightful philosophy is always structured as a joke. The philosophers he favors traffic in paradoxes, unexpected connections, and stunning reversals, constantly remaking their thought and challenging their readers to do the same.
Community is a half hour comedy that requires users to do their homework and come to class prepared for discussion.
Dan Harmon’s hit Community is wrapping up its second season tonight with the other half of the finale, a Western send-up that has given our characters a fabulous excuse for skulking around campus with paintball guns, forming a series of shifting alliances. Deliciously, Community has managed to reference not only iconic pop culture but itself with this reprise of last season’s equally paint-splattered ‘Modern Warfare.’ Let’s hope they don’t try for a third year, or a clever reference might become a tiring tradition.
I was slow to catch on to Community. I watched the pilot last year despite my general dislike of comedies, and didn’t pursue it, although it kept floating across my radar. People just wouldn’t stop talking about it though, so I recently took it up again to see what all the fuss was about. The show is a slow burner that doesn’t usually grab viewers with flashy theatrics: you have to be into Community to enjoy Community, and judging from the following the show is starting to pick up, more and more people are into it.
This is a show steeped in pop culture designed to appeal to pop culturalists of a certain bent, which is part of why some people may find it inaccessible, and why it may be destined for underground fame, as the one thing we love more than pop culture is referencing pop culture. Sure, it’s still funny, but it’s funnier when you catch the layers of references going on. The show is to some extent a parody of itself but it can be difficult to pick up on that when you can’t read the subtext. Community, in other words, is a half hour comedy that requires users to do their homework and come to class prepared for discussion.
This book paints a deeply disturbing picture of the United States interventions in the Caribbean: propping up brutal dictators, overthrowing democratically elected governments, and undermining social reform in the name of anti-communism.
Alex von Tunzelmann, Red Heat: Conspiracy, Murder, and the Cold War in the Caribbean , Henry Holt and Co, 2011.
Americans remain fascinated by the Cuban Missile Crisis. In the fall of 1962, American planes photographed Soviet nuclear missiles in Cuba. The situation quickly escalated with members of both the American and Soviet governments calling for nuclear war. Mercifully, both U.S. President John Kennedy and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev came to their senses before blowing up the world.
At the heart of the conflict was Cuban leader Fidel Castro, whose 1959 revolution threw American leaders into fits of fury. Alex von Tunzelmann’s new and very readable book, Red Heat: Conspiracy, Murder, and the Cold War in the Caribbean, certainly will appeal to readers fascinated by the intrigue between Castro and Kennedy. This relationship became implanted in popular memory both through the missile crisis and with the rumors that Castro was behind the plot to assassinate JFK.
We don’t know anything concrete about Castro’s involvement in that murder, but we do know that Kennedy did approve several plots to kill Castro. That’s just the start of von Tunzelmann’s detailing of American outrages committed in the Caribbean during the Cold War. Focusing on Cuba, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic she paints a deeply disturbing picture of the United States propping up brutal dictators, overthrowing democratically elected governments, and undermining social reform in the name of anti-communism.
Each of these books in their own way addresses the questions of inequality, and the need for practical action to create a fairer, more just world.
The Verso Book of Dissent, Ed. Andrew Hsiao and Andrea Lim, Verso, 2010.
The Idea of Communism, Ed. Coustas Douzinas and Slavoj Žižek, Verso, 2010.
Stephen Colbert once famously said that “reality has a liberal bias.” It is possible however that reality is even more radical than that. The events of the past couple years would seem to play that hypothesis out, from the economic crisis of 2008 to the blatantly ideological cuts of the “austerity” era in Anglophonic countries exposing the inequalities and incoherencies of neoliberal capitalism. The time has never been better for intelligent Leftist writing, and there are few better than the venerable Verso imprint.
Two books that have made welcome appearances in my mailbox lately have been The Verso Book of Dissent and The Idea of Communism. Each in their own way addresses the questions of inequality, and the need for practical action to create a fairer, more equitable world.
It seems like the world has not moved on at all.
When is sexual harassment not sexual harassment? When it pertains to the rights of an academic to discuss the sex life of fruit bats with a colleague. Add a cry for understanding, a wail of academic censorship and a quick online petition and the academic community is up in metaphorical arms.
This is the tale of Dylan Evans and his online fight to prove himself innocent of sexual harassment and to place himself as the victim of a politically correct university regime determined to undermine his academic freedom. In a presumably desperate act, he transmitted his story to the HuffingtonPost who obligingly printed his point of view, started a petition about his academic persecution and began to stir up what was to become #fruitbatgate. (more…)
Princeton needs Michelle Obama to show students the way to anti-racism?
Michelle Obama is everywhere these days, but one place you won’t find her is the Class of 1985 – 25th Reunion celebration at Princeton University. Obama, who graduated cum laude from Princeton in 1985 with a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and a minor in African-American Studies, sent a formal letter of regret through the White House Office of Scheduling which declined her invitation to attend the May festivities. Understandably, the First Lady of the United States has prioritized time with her family and her ongoing political actions – fighting childhood obesity, supporting pay equality, and advocating on behalf of U.S. military families – over a class dinner and cocktail hour with the university president.
Yet it seems that some at Princeton feel Obama has a special obligation to the current student body and her fellow alumni. (more…)
“Fisk repeats the apologia of those Arabs in Berlin…who collaborated with the Nazis”
Jeffrey Herf teaches Modern and Contemporary European history at the University of Maryland, College Park. His book, Nazi Propaganda for the Arab World, was published by Yale University Press in late 2009. His previous works include The Jewish Enemy: Nazi Propaganda during World War II and the Holocaust (Harvard University Press, 2006). (more…)
“The music business is full of traps and most bands bleed.”
At the start of yet another American tour, Kirsty Evans had a chance to catch up with Arch Enemy vocalist Angela Gossow, one of the most ass-kicking women in metal. Having recently participated in an academic conference on women in metal, Angela had plenty to say about the subject. Young women just getting into the music scene should pay close attention. Consider this your insider’s guide to what to do and what not to do if you want a real, lasting career.
How did you get involved in the women in metal conference in Cologne? (more…)
“Even a nuclear Iran could not initiate a war with Israel.”
Professor Homa Katouzian is an specialist on Iran, teaching at the Faculty of Oriental Studies at the University of Oxford. Trained as an economist, Dr. Katouzian has a broad range of interests including Iranian history and literature. His latest book is The Persians: Ancient, Medieval and Modern Iran (Yale University Press, 2009).
Jonathan Mok: Your book surveys the politics, economics and culture of Iran. You first studied economics. Why and when did you extend your interest to history and literature?
Homa Katouzian: I taught economics for eighteen years and dropped it in favor of history, politics and literature, partly because I became disillusioned with economics once I discovered that economists did not adhere to the scientific methods which they proclaim in the abstract, but more importantly because there were no further issues in economics that I wanted to study, whereas there was plenty in Iranian history, comparative history, Persian literature and Iranian studies in general. I had kept up with these subjects all the while, and I did all the necessary research for my literary biography of Sadeq Hedayat and my political biography of Mosaddeq while I was still teaching economics.
Iran is an oil-rich state. It has remained a developing country, however. What are some of the reasons for its relative underdevelopment?
All five of the employees continue to be harassed by the students they are cleaning up after.
A shocking video which outraged Afrikaners in 2008 has resurfaced, if only to once again emphasize the privileges of its elite, white male students.
The University of the Free State in Bloemfontein, a South African college, has reinstated two white students who were expelled last year after serving four black female housekeepers and one elderly black male housekeeper with beef stew which one of the men had previously urinated into. But it was not enough to harass these workers: the students filmed their heinousness, as well as the vomiting of the five housekeepers after learning they had been served urine-soaked stew.
At the end of the video, the students boldly announced, “That is what we think of integration.” The video was purposely filmed, the students claim, as a “satirical slant” while the campus prepared to racially integrate the residence halls and dormitories. At that point, the campus was still divided into white and black dormitories, nearly twenty years after the end of legal apartheid in South Africa.
Global Comment © 2012 | Design & Developed by : Slate