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Parallax View

by Slavoj Zizek The MIT Press
Pub Date:
Pbk 448 pages
AU$49.99 NZ$52.17
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The Parallax View is Slavoj Žižek's most substantial theoretical work to appear in many years; Žižek himself describes it as his magnum opus. Parallax can be defined as the apparent displacement of an object, caused by a change in observational position. Žižek is interested in the ''parallax gap'' separating two points between which no synthesis or mediation is possible, linked by an ''impossible short circuit'' of levels that can never meet. From this consideration of parallax, Žižek begins a rehabilitation of dialectical materialism.

Modes of parallax can be seen in different domains of today's theory, from the wave-particle duality in quantum physics to the parallax of the unconscious in Freudian psychoanalysis between interpretations of the formation of the unconscious and theories of drives. In The Parallax View, Žižek, with his usual astonishing erudition, focuses on three main modes of parallax: the ontological difference, the ultimate parallax that conditions our very access to reality; the scientific parallax, the irreducible gap between the phenomenal experience of reality and its scientific explanation, which reaches its apogee in today's brain sciences (according to which ''nobody is home'' in the skull, just stacks of brain meat—a condition Žižek calls ''the unbearable lightness of being no one''); and the political parallax, the social antagonism that allows for no common ground. Between his discussions of these three modes, Žižek offers interludes that deal with more specific topics—including an ethical act in a novel by Henry James and anti-anti-Semitism.

The Parallax View not only expands Žižek's Lacanian-Hegelian approach to new domains (notably cognitive brain sciences) but also provides the systematic exposition of the conceptual framework that underlies his entire work. Philosophical and theological analysis, detailed readings of literature, cinema, and music coexist with lively anecdotes and obscene jokes.

''Žižek has only to clap eyes on a received truth to feel the intolerable itch to deface it.... Žižek is that rare breed of writer—one who is both lucid and esoteric. If he is sometimes hard to understand, it is because of the intricacy of his ideas, not because of a self-preening style.'' —Terry Eagleton, Artforum

''In this huge, thrilling book, Slavoj Žižek enacts a dazzling display of philosophy as performance art, delighting in upsetting readers' expectations, inserting sly jokes, and castigating the 'boring' political analyses of just about everyone.... Žižek is a thinker who regards nothing as outside his field: the result is deeply interesting and provocative.'' —The Guardian

''Žižek is one of the few living writers to combine theoretical rigor with compulsive readability, and his new volume provides perhaps the clearest elaboration of his theoretical framework thus far....This challenging book takes us on a roller-coaster ride whose every loop is a Möbius strip.'' —Publishers Weekly

''A remarkable demonstration of continental philosophical and psychoanalytical pyrotechnics. More provocative ideas per page than normally found in whole books by the dull anglophone empiricists who find him so threatening.''
- Times Higher Education, August 28, 2009

Series Foreword ix
Introduction: Dialectical Materialism at the Gates
I The Stellar Parallax: The Traps of Ontological Difference 15
1 The Subject, This ''Inwardly Circumcised Jew''
The Tickling Object. The Kantian Parallax. The Birth of (Hegelian) Concrete Universality out of the Spirit of (Kantian) Antinomies. The Master-Signifier and Its Vicissitudes. Soave sia il vento... The Parallax of the Critique of Political Economy. 16
2 Building Blocks for a Materialist Theology
A Boy Meets the Lady. Kierkegaard as a Hegelian. Die Versagung. The Traps of Pure Sacrifice. The Difficulty of Being a Kantian. The Comedy of Incarnation. Odradek as a Political Category. Too Much Life! 68
Interlude I: Kate's Choice, or, The Materialism of Henry James 124
II The Solar Parallax: The Unbearable Lightness of Being No One 145
3 The Unbearable Heaviness of Being Divine Shit
Burned by the Sun. Pick Up Your Cave! Copernicus, Darwin, Freud and Many Others. Toward a New Science of Appearances. Resistances to Disenchantment. When the God Comes Around. The Desublimated Object of Post-Ideology. Danger? What Danger? 146
4 The Loop of Freedom
''Positing the Presuppositions''. A Cognitivist Hegel? The False Opacity. Emotions Lie, or, Where Damasio is Wrong. Hegel, Marx, Denett. From Physics to Design? The Unconscious Act of Freedom. The Language of Seduction, the Seduction of Language. 200
Interlude 2: Objet Petit A in Social Links, or, The Impasses of Anti-Anti-Semitism 252
III The Lunar Parallax: Toward a Politics of Subtraction 271
5 From Surplus-Value to Surplus-Power
Ontic Errance, Ontological Truth. Gelassenheit? No Thanks! Toward the Theory of the Stalinist Musical. The Biopolitical Parallax. The Historicity of the Four Discourses. Jouissance as a Political Category. Do We Still Live in a World? 272
6 The Obscene Knot of Ideology, and How to Untie It
The Academic Rumspringa, or, the Parallax of Power and Resistance. Human Rights versus the Rights of the Inhuman. Violence Enframed. The Ignorance of the Chicken. Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Fundamentalism? Over the Rainbow Coalition!... 330
Notes 387

++i++ek is one of the few living writers to combine theoretical rigor with compulsive readability, and his new volume provides perhaps the clearest elaboration of his theoretical framework thus far....This challenging book takes us on a roller-coaster ride whose every loop is a M+¦bius strip.

'Publishers Weekly
Slavoj Žižek is a philosopher and cultural critic. He has published over thirty books, including Looking Awry, The Puppet and the Dwarf, and The Parallax View (these three published by the MIT Press).