Read The Ticklish Subject: The Absent Centre of Political Ontology by Slavoj Žižek Online


The Ticklish Subject confronts Deconstructionists and Habermasians, cognitive scientists and Heideggerians, feminists and New Age obscurantists by unearthing a subversive core to this elusive spectre, and finding in this core the indispensable philosophical point of reference of any genuinely emancipatory politics....

Title : The Ticklish Subject: The Absent Centre of Political Ontology
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ISBN : 9781859842911
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 408 Pages
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The Ticklish Subject: The Absent Centre of Political Ontology Reviews

  • David M
    2019-02-15 12:31

    Highly recommended. I think I'll add my voice to the chorus calling it Zizek's masterpiece. Grade-A philosophical highs, plus much cultural and political commentary that has stayed germane. The Event is thus the Void of an invisible line separating one closure from another: prior to it, the Situation was closed; that is, from within it horizon, (what will become) the Event necessarily appears as skandalon, as an undecidable, chaotic intrusion that has no place in the state of the Situation... once the Event takes place and is assumed as such, the very previous Situation appears as undecidable Chaos. - pp 159 I do believe this book, published in 1999, predates Zizek the international celebrity phenomenon. The style here is relatively restrained compared to his later clown show. Yet there are still moments that are laugh out loud funny. At the same time, reading it now, it dawns on me that he's actually been serious as a heart attack all along. The question runs through his oevure of how it's possible to commit to an authentic emancipatory project in a culture as thoroughly cynical as our own. The fact that he often revels in the stupidities of postmodern capitalism is actually a mark of how seriously he takes his problem.*Zizek on LacanThe master speakswho is the master?{censored}

  • my name is corey irl
    2019-02-03 19:23

    ppl are super mean to zizek and theyre always makin fun of the way he talks. first of all, RUDE. secondly i'd like to see you rehabilitate enlightenment ideas with a mouthful of marbles. get fucken real

  • Justin Evans
    2019-02-16 14:49

    This was quite a slog- like a classical author writing an impenetrable first paragraph just to prove he (always he) can, Zizek writes an incredibly dense first chapter on Heidegger, when all he needed to say was: Heidegger was wrong to reject the subject of German idealism. That aside... TS is probably a good book to read as a summary of contemporary continental thought. It sums it up both concretely (i.e., chapters on Badiou, Ranciere, Laclau, Butler etc) and more symbolically: this is a book about whether we can have a theory of revolution that won't force us to call Fascism revolutionary. Zizek's basic conclusion is something like: yes, we can, if we follow Lacan, and theorize the subject as a passive crack in reality. Fascism is the result of humans taking themselves as willpowers rather than cracks, so what we need is a theory that doesn't imagine human will power to be the force behind revolution. Lacan provides us with this. At the end of the day, Zizek's approach doesn't look much different from Badiou or Ranciere's. All three stress an 'event' or 'act' that just kind of sort of happens, and take revolution to be subjective faith in that event. There are subtleties underneath this - Zizek is right to say that Badiou's theory looks a bit too much like an appeal to the Beautiful Soul of the Pure and Incorruptible Revolutionary; right to say that 'transgression' (so highly valued by Butler) is just the flipside to the norms that are being transgressed. But at the end of the day, you have to ask yourself: i) do you care to have a theory of revolution at all? ii) if so, do you want one that leaves human beings in the situation of sitting around waiting for something to happen? [which, by the way, is very Heideggerian]; iii) isn't this all just a bit too much like old school Dialectical Materialism of the History is the Subject type? You can use Lacanian and Hegelian language all you want, but if you theorize yourself as nothing more than a disciple waiting for a messiah, you won't get very far. [NB: a friend explained to me the possible motivation behind Zizek's theory here. In short, Z takes deconstructionists' rejection of the subject to be identical to a kind of limp, liberal capitalist 'ethics' of the individual, according to which what really matters is the kind of light-bulbs you buy. Now, this really is quite limp, and I can see why someone would want to reject it. But Z swings too far the other way: not liberal individualism, but the kind of History that Tolstoy wrote about in War and Peace. To put it mildly, such radical, pointless opposition isn't very dialectical.]

  • Adam
    2019-02-12 20:47

    No one would ever ask how we ended up with Drumpf if they'd just read this. Oh, and already be well versed in the annals of critical theory. Is that too much to ask? Zizek uses the three figures of Heidegger, Badiou, and Judith Butler as a springboard to explore a set of politico-philosophical questions with profound ramifications: How do we define our horizon of action (metaphysics)? What sort of act constitutes an authentic Event (politics)? And what sort of subject is capable of defining horizons and acting within them (psychoanalysis)? If you cherish plainspoken easily digested comforting folksy platitudes, don't bother with Zizek; his writing is as clear as it must be, but it is unrepentant in exemplifying the arch-Hegelian maxim that knowledge only BEGINS with the destruction of common sense.--------------------------------------------------After reading this a second time, I second what I said above. The more Zizek writes (and talks), the clearer his modes and motifs become: The Ticklish Subject is definitely more in the vein of high critical theory than topical political commentary, yet all throughout Zizek is able to submit evidence from the latter to bolster the claims of the former.

  • Eric Phetteplace
    2019-01-30 13:19

    Probably my favorite of the somewhat-limited set of Zizek I've read. I thoroughly recommend skipping Part I and heading straight for the awesomeness that is Parts II & III. Zizek is always at his best when he's political (as in his first book, The Sublime Object of Ideology, a name with obvious parallels to this) and this book is extremely forthright in its politics, not only trying to describe the functioning of the political sphere in both idealist (I mean ideology/hegemony/universality) and psychoanalytic terms, but also trying to lay down how exactly we move beyond capitalism to something else (something which isn't "actually existing" socialism, regression into anarchy, new age holism, risk society, etc). His answer is rather nonexistent (every chapter ends just as he's laid out all the difficulties involved in "an authentic act". What about pragmatics? "Metaphorical condensation" became a killer arg in debate circles but it always pissed me off because Z never gives an indication of what particular struggles might function the best, what metric to use, though I guess immigrant workers and the homeless are [briefly:] cited herein).I'll take Deleuze over Lacan any day, but it was very intriguing to read Zizek's attacks on identity politics (which is a vulgar interpretation of D&G anyway) and difference-based philosophy (D&G, Derrida, Foucault-Butler too). Zizek is absolutely right to attack postmodernism and wins most of his engagements, in my opinion. His bemoaning the post-Oedipal state of society is fairly misguided (D&G's point was "we have never been Oedipal" and psychoanalysts need to wake up to that rather than repeatedly flatten the smooth space of desire onto the one territory they know well, the Oedipal triangle) but he has some really great points about how ideologies like those can function as a perfect complement to capitalism, merely expanding the scope of our desires while making us narcissistic slaves to them. But in short; more Marxists & psychoanalysts need to think of Lacan&Zizek and Deleuze&Guattari as complementary theories (each filling in the other's blind spot) rather than zero sum antagonists.

  • Spoust1
    2019-01-21 15:43

    Below are summaries of the book's chapters. If any of the summaries are appealing, read the book. Otherwise, do not. Zizek's theory of the subject amounts to him theorizing all over the place...1) looking at Kant's concept of "transcendental imagination" through Heidegger's reading of Kant. He argues that the "transcendental imagination," the source of creativity, is also something terrifying - a sort of madness constitutive of the subject. See: Jacques Derrida's "Cogito and the History of Madness" in "Writing and Difference."2) explaining some basic Hegel - negation of the negation, identity of substance and subject, concrete universality. Zizek is the best interpreter of Hegel I've read - some of what is in this chapter is essential.3) on the philosophy of Alain Badiou - The Event, The Act, etc. This is a fairly subtle critique of Badiou, so it won't be of much interest to those not already familiar with his philosophy. It also goes into Zizek's Hegelian reading of Christianity - but this is something he develops more fully in other books, I think. See: "The Puppet and the Dwarf," "The Monstrosity of Christ: Paradox or Dialectic?"4) undertaking a sophisticated multi-part critique of Ranciere, Balibar, Badiou, and Laclau, using them as examples of ways approaching politics today - that is, politics in "the post-political age." This is Zizek doing what I think he does better than anyone else: arguing that any attempt to avoid the topic of capitalism in political or philosophical debate is doomed to fail, for capitalism is the Real, the ultimate horizon of our existence today. He undermines postmodern identity politics and liberalism from within, showing how they are determined and limited by that which they refuse to see: the specter of Capital. With regard to the four theorists he uses to provide a certain context for his argument, Zizek gives them some credit; ultimately, his critique does not undermine their theoretical enterprises as much as it shows that they are incomplete if not supplemented with various Lacanian and Hegelian twists, which he of course provides. This chapter reminded me the most of "Violence," one of Zizek's more recent books - and also one of my favorites.5) engaging in a dialogue with Judith Butler and Michel Foucault. I know Foucault better than I know some of the other theorists Zizek is critiquing; I cannot fully endorse his critique of Foucault, which in my mind does not afford the latter enough credit. I cannot put my finger on why I'm suspicious - but I always trust my suspicion. Regardless, this is the best chapter in the book. Zizek focuses not on "Gender Trouble" but on Butler's "The Psychic Life of Power," which is about how we are constituted as subjects in relation to certain norms, institutions, etc. While Zizek agrees with Butler (and Foucault) on some points, where he differs is on their account of resistance. Makes you want to read Butler's book, too.6) rambling about whatever he couldn't talk about in the rest of the book. There are some good bits in here - about ecology as ideology, about how we are controlled by our symbolic identities. This chapter doesn't really fit with the rest of the book. It has some great insights, though. This can be read separately, and maybe it should be.

  • Alex Lee
    2019-02-02 20:48

    This is my second time reading this book. After reading Less than Nothing I see that in this earlier book, Zizek is still Zizek, but he makes more leaps of logic. He isn't as refined in his thinking but he is still trying to say the same kind of thing. After some reflection, it's apparent that he seeks to reify the manner by which the subject both occupies the agent field and is determined by it. To this end, Zizek attempts to establish the parameters by which agency of the subject can be determined. To do this he utilizes the context provided by other thinkers finally locating agency within, you guessed it, symbolic efficacy, which in this case is the center of political will... be it a drive state or some position of symbolic authority.In many ways this was a masterful work when it came out in 1999, but now it reads to be fairly Zizek. He has exceeded himself in detail, so that this work now appears to be a bare outline of the same kind of examination he's done before. Given his later work, this one no longer appears to be really worth reading in detail, although it does give us a good sense of where he's come from and how he continues to evolve and develop as a thinker.

  • Michael
    2019-02-05 20:29

    makes some good points, and I would recommend reading this for inspiration, but for the most part Zizek is all flash, and little substance. I did like his chapter, The Politics of Truth, or, Alain Badiou as a Reader of St Paul.

  • Adam Fisher
    2019-01-23 13:44

    as always, Zizek knows exactly what he's talking about, but seems to have no reason why he's talking about it. 90% gibberish, occasional nuggets of odd-shaped truth.

  • T.
    2019-02-08 14:40

    In his ‘The Ticklish Subject’, Zizek says:“The ethical hero is tragic, whereas the knight of Faith dwells in the horrible domain beyond or between the two deaths, since he (is ready to) sacrifice(s) what is most precious to him, his objet petit a (in the case of Abraham, his son). In other words, Kierkegaard's point is not that Abraham is forced to choose between his duty to God and his duty to humanity (such a choice remains simply tragic), but that he has to choose between the two facets of duty to God, and thereby the two facets of God Himself: God as universal (the system of symbolic norms) and God as the point of absolute singularity that suspends the dimension of the Universal.”After one passage he continues:“Abraham's deadlock does not lie in the fact that, on behalf of the ultimate tout autre (God), he has to sacrifice another tout autre, his most beloved earthly companion (his son) but, rather, in the fact that, on behalf of his Love for God, he has to sacrifice what the very religion grounded in his faith orders him to love. The split is thus inherent in faith itself; it is the split between the Symbolic and the Real, between the symbolic edifice of faith and the pure, unconditional act of faith - the only way to prove your faith is to betray what this very faith orders you to love.”Almost 100 pages later, close to the end of the book there are two passages which forced me to recall the deadlock of Abraham he mentioned above:“It was Bertolt Brecht who, in his 'learning' play The Measure Taken (1930), fully deployed this 'terroristic' potential of the act, defining the act as the readiness to accept one's thorough self-obliteration ('second death'): the youth who joins the revolutionaries, then endangers them through his humanist compassion for the suffering workers, agrees to be thrown into a pit where his body will disintegrate, with no trace of him left behind. Here, the revolution is endangered by the remainder of naive humanity - that is, by perceiving other people not only as figures inthe class struggle but also, and primarily, as suffering human beings. Against this reliance on one's direct sentiments of compassion, Brecht offers the 'excremental' identification of the revolutionary subject with the terror needed to erase the last traces of terror itself, thus accepting the need for its own ultimate self-obliteration: 'Who are you? Stinking, be gone from the room that has been cleaned! Would that you were the last of the filth which you had to remove!’”and:“A revolution is achieved (not betrayed) when it 'eats its own children', the excess that was necessary to set it in motion. In other words, the ultimate revolutionary ethical stance is not that of simple devotion and fidelity to the Revolution but, rather, that of willingly accepting the role of 'vanishing mediator', of the excessive executioner to be executed (as the 'traitor') so that the Revolution can achieve its ultimate goal.”At the beginning of the book, Zizek postulates an analogy between the early Christian believers (mainly St. Paulus) and revolutionists by referring to Badiou’s ideas. I agree with him about the imaginational trigger status of egalitarian and emancipatory thought. We can say a modern revolutionist is a kind of modern believer whose main drive is secular morality. S/he chooses a side and as Zizek claims in the book, we all have to choose a side. Pretending like staying neutral is probably choosing one of the bad sides. I agree with him about this too. But then he gives this example of Abraham’s deadlock and depicts his God (thus the God every Abrahamic religion) as a capricious God: ‘I want it because I want it!’That made sense to me. Because I think Semitic religions are the peak point of inequality and patriarchy that rose dramatically with the dawn of Neolithic Revolution since they were outputs of a region that is called ‘cradle of civilization.’ The selfish and greedy subject who likes to ‘own’ more and more is also the one who wants just because s/he wants.First I thought Zizek means only the God of Abraham as a capricious figure who contradicts with himself. But then it seemed to me as if Zizek was talking general about faith when he said ‘the only way to prove your faith is to betray what this very faith orders you to love.’And only close to the end of the book I found myself disagreeing with him when I read the part about Brecht’s ‘The Measure Taken.’ For me, the main drive of a revolutionist is to love people (and even the life itself in its general context including animals and plants, etc) regardless of their sex, origin, location, etc. It is not like to love a specific ethnic group, social class, sex or species which are the symptoms of otherization or in a wider scope, indicators of rightist patterns of thought. If Zizek assumes that also Revolution as an emancipatory big Other expects from us to betray the very thing it has asked us to love at the beginning, I wouldn’t be able to call myself as a Revolutionist. I tend to think of ‘the big Other’ as a by-product of evolution which granted us cognitive abilities and empathy. As the ability of empathy seems to have evolved with the advanced socializing at mammals, it makes sense that the brain has a capability of constantly imagining what ‘others’ (may these ‘others’ be literal or figurative) might be expecting of us or thinking about us. But if ‘the big Other’ reflects our own nature to a degree, does it mean that we all are capricious and irrational beings in our core regardless of the God of Abraham or an emancipatory drive such as Revolution? Do we always assume that this big Other wants something 'just' because it wants something (because we are like that anyway)?I know this example seems to have no connection with Brecht’s play, but I remember the moment I saw the picture of Evin Hajiibrahim, a 5 years old girl who got burned in Syrian Civil War. The picture touched me deeply. That moment, a fantastic question appeared in my mind: If you knew all the inequality in the world would cease to exist, all the classes would disappear, but the cost would be the burning of this small girl, would you press the button that makes this happen? The suffering of millions and even billions would end maybe, but I wouldn’t be able to make that impudent move and decide on behalf of that girl in order to bring freedom and equality to billions. Although this may sound paradoxical, I can accept to be forgotten, to die a second time as Zizek mentions in the book, to be accused as a dirty child of a Revolution 'only' if I didn’t commit the dirty deeds that would justify this second death. I know the Revolution is beautiful from a far and monstrous when you get close to it. Knowing this, I would consider myself as a Revolutionist still because in order to become a monster you don’t need to sacrifice innocent beings without their consent. It takes much less to become a monster anyway. In brief, I disagree with Brecht and Zizek at some level. To my mind, that naive guy in Brecht’s play doesn’t deserve to be forced to self-obliteration and I think a Revolution that expects us to betray our own revolutionary faith to prove our faith is condemned to eat itself, destroy itself eventually.Except all these thoughts i wanted to share i want to say that the book deserves a 5 stars. Thank you Zizek for triggering my mind in a way no one else can.

  • Valerie
    2019-02-20 20:37

    Ce qui est original et rafraichissant avec Slavoj Zizek s'est qu'il utilise la psychanalyse et le cinéma pour explorer les racines de la force qui nous soumet à son rythme cruel, c'est-à-dire le capitalisme. Il a une énorme souplesse pour passer d'une idée à l'autre en maintenant une cohérence très intéressante, sa critique formulée de façon brillante, fait, disons le clairement, du bien ! Ce qui est intéressant chez Zizek c'est aussi que son analyse cinématographique est pertinente ce qui n'est pas souvent le cas, je trouve quand les psy s'intéressent au cinéma, où les critiques ciné utilisent la psychanalyse. La lecture est facilitée par la connaissance des oeuvres qui permettent une bonne introduction à l'oeuvre de Jacques Lacan.

  • Bradley
    2019-01-28 16:29

    Zizek is masterful in this book. I think it's his best work, and more accessible than Sublime Object of Ideology. It starts with a reading of Heidegger's Being and Time, the passage between "thrown projection" of the individual Dasein who achieves an authentic mode of being, freely choosing his fate, leading to a community of people which collectivly assume their historical destiny (create their lives). Zizek states that Heidegger is at his best when he explores the opposition between modern anonymous dispersed society (Das Man), with people busy following their everyday preoccupations, and the People authentically assuming society's Destiny. Zizek's thesis is that this opposition is emblematic of "Americanized" civilization of frenetic false activity and its conservative "Authentic" response to it. There are also some excellent discussions of Gilles Deleuze and Michel Foucault in here. Confronting the age-old critique of Foucault posed by reductive misreadings of post-modern philosophy, Zizek deconstructs the "Power/Resistance Vicious Circle." Instead of conceptualizing disciplinary mechanisms as being repressive, creating the conditions of its resistance (which isn't necessarily false) Zizek theorizes that the social-power mechanisms might no longer have control over themselves. Resistance is created out of this implicit excess. There is also a great critique of P.C. multi-culturalism in the later chapters. How is calling someone "Weight-challenged" less rude than just saying, "You're fat"? Political Correctness indicates a kind of polite violence.

  • Benjamin
    2019-02-03 16:26

    One of the bigger Zizek works and one of his more theoretical. Zizek tends to waver between huge works that set out his main theses and give a summary of what he's been up to and where he's going (Ticklish Subject, Parallax View, In Defence of Lost Causes) even if he changes his mind the week after, or short burtsts where his ideas are applied (Enjoy Your Symptom! First As Tragedy Then As Farce, Violence). This is one of the big buggers and although regular readers will have seen much of this stuff before, it's one of his more detailed treatments. Rather than skipping over ideas as he does in some of his shorter works (the pinacle of this was in some of his recent books where he refers to chocolate laxatives without explanation because we ALL know that analogy from 50 other books of his) he digs into the ideas and shows that, yes, behind the bluster and profanity, he actually knows his stuff.Forget the pop culture references. In this book we get detailed examinations of the usual Marx, Hegel, Lacan and Freud, but also Kant, Heidegger, Derrida, Butler, Badiou, Laclau, Ranciere, Balibar and other key figures. All of this is in an attempt to relocate the notion of the subject away from the dismissive accounts that deny its existence, but without returning us to a world of a blank self-conscious cogito (i.e. he's keeping the politics but rejecting the post-structuralism). A great read and, as always, food for thought. Not for the uninitiated.

  • Malcolm
    2019-02-02 17:47

    Slavoj Žižek: celebrity philosopher. His work is widely read and amongst the most demanding contemporary philosophy with his long term mission to weave together Marx, Hegel, and Lacan, in texts that are for the most part resolutely and intensely political, even though I could do much less Lacan in my politics, Žižek and others who invoke him such as Jodi Dean show the usefulness of some of these psychoanalytic concepts in analysing but I remain unconvinced that Lacan's work helps us build movements of political struggle. The Ticklish Subject is amongst the finest of his many books where he uncovers the place of the subject as a vital force in emancipatory politics, sloughing off the cynicism of much of the academic world to demand that we reassert the subject and agency, that we move beyond the quest for resistance to rebellion. A difficult read, you bet; an essential read if we want to get beyond the fuzzy non-logic scholarship and analysis that fails to connect with the people it claims to be about, you bet. Best read as part of his on-going debate with others looking to revive the usefulness of the notion of communism - Dean, Badiou, Bosteels and others - although written before the notion of a revival had been articulated clearly.

  • Kevin
    2019-02-07 14:34

    As always, Zizek proves entertaining and frustrating in equal measure, with perhaps a tendency towards the later whenever Lacan is discussed (SPOILER: often). Readers who aren’t highly literate in Western philosophy, Marxist theory, psychoanalysis, Eastern European politics, and American pop culture should expect a steep learning curve. His first section (The ‘Night of the World’) easily the toughest nugget in the proverbial Happy Meal, but if continental philosophy’s your bag then—Hegel, hey!—this stuff should brighten your Beautiful Soul. Critical Theory-heads, skip to sections two and three.The book ends with a perfunctory call to proletarian arms (just as any Freudian is "naive," any liberal democrat, according to Zizek, fails to challenge the "fundamental means of production") but the draw, as far as I can see, is not his conclusion but his free-wheeling, all consuming overviews of theoretical discourse. When he manages not to (sm)Other the reader with Lacanisms, Zizek parses the inherent contradictions of theory like a master.

  • Mike
    2019-02-06 14:33

    I keep coming back to this book. The first time I couldn't even make it through the first chapter. Or any of the chapters. Maybe 2/3rds at the most. It was almost like I had to do research before being able to read it. Six months later I've read a few of the chapters, but I felt most engaged by the section on Alain Badiou and St. Paul. Awesome. And I think I know what the ticklish subject is.

  • Jake Maguire
    2019-02-03 12:46

    I'm rereading different Philosophers right now so I can get a clearer perspective on what Zizek is getting at. I am taking out my notes on Kant, Heidegger and Kierkegaard, Hegel etc. I enjoyed his introduction to Lacan, but I'll need to gain more clarity on his views pertaining to critical theory and existentialism in order to decipher some of his more difficult passages. A ticklish subject indeed- but very interesting! Brilliant guy.

  • James
    2019-02-19 14:25

    There were some definite 4-5 star moments in this, but I still find a lot of his infatuation with Heidegger and Derrida to be a case of special pleading, and the quoted sections of same to be almost black holes. The last section which is almost entirely Lacan is among the most lucid writing Zizek has done, and it merits inclusion in his Essential collection.

  • Andrew Feist
    2019-01-30 16:48

    pretty dense. had to look a lot of terms to get what he meant. ultimately worth reading, as it introduced a lot of ideas and perspectives i was not that familiar with. Probably not the best place to start though.

  • David
    2019-02-11 14:45

    For my Zizek class.

  • Cary
    2019-02-09 15:22

    I did it! I finished it! At times a Lacanian tour through continental philosophy, and at other times an Adornian critique of our so called "predicaments" of Late Capitalism.

  • Gil Reavill
    2019-02-09 20:31

    good on the rhetoric r violence