Slavioj Zizek newest book, _The Year of Dreaming Dangerously_, was written simultaneously with his magnum opus _Less Than Nothing_. Although _Less Than Nothing_ is a far more philosophical accomplishment, _The Year of Dreaming Dangerously_ will surely attract a far greater readership. The book offers an impressive introduction to the political philosophy of Zizek, centered around a journalistic presentation and an otherwise philosophical analysis, and cultural critique of `the [global] event' of 2011.
Slavoj Zizek is an important political and cultural critic. Recently he has developed a strong interest in establishing his philosophical roots, from Hegel, to Marx, and onto Lacan (see his Less Than Nothing: Hegel and the Shadow of Dialectical Materialism). Zizek's reading of Hegel and Marx in "Less Than Nothing" is highly unique, directly aimed at demonstrating, first how the ideas of Hegel, Marx, and Lacan are relevant for understanding and mending the quadruple crisis we currently find the world (i.e. socio-economic, political (war, terrorism, protest), environmental, and personal (anxiety, fear, depression, not to mention unemployment, hunger)). Second he demonstrates how the Hegelian dialectic happens.
Nonetheless, I find "Less Than Nothing" a bit disorienting, a type of 'adolescent Hegelianism' (in contrast to the time honored "Old" versus "Young" Hegelian divide). I haven't made up mind about "Less than Nothing," surely it will become essential reading for Zizek supporters and critics alike. Personally I do believe it would benefit immensely from a Young Hegelian orientation or an engagement with Dialectical Critical Realism (for a highly innovative interpretation and dialectical development of Hegel and Marx see Roy Bhaskar's Dialectic: The Pulse of Freedom (Classical Texts in Critical Realism)).
In his book "The Year of Dreaming Dangerously" Zizek is at his best. He applies his blasphemous critiques and impious attitude toward power structures of the global order. More specifically he is interested in the revolutionary year of 2011. This is an analysis of contemporary politics couched in the theories of Lacan, Hegel, and Marx. The analysis of contemporary politics is often in the context of popular culture, from the TV series _The Wire_, to Shakespeare, to Homer Simpson, to pop-music artist David Guetta, the music of Wagner, through playwright Bertolt Brecht, and movie-directing/acting of Charlie Chaplin.
Zizek takes the events of 2011 (actually beginning with the financial collapse in 2007-8 and spilling into 2012 forward) and attempts to interpret them as a (Hegelian) totality. Whereas the last decade had been "definitely non-evental" (p. 97) in the Badiou sense of the term, the year of 2011 was a series of multiple events, that Zizek interprets as an event denoting the failures of capitalism and anti-democratic politics.
Zizek attempts to assemble these Badiovian events into a configuration capable of understanding them as a Whole, explaining them as a historical Structural phenomenon, with an eye towards mending the Causes (p. 26).
He begins his story with the financial collapse of Europe and the particular fiscal episode of Greece and the internal contradictions of China and the economic global order more generally (chapter 2). He then articulates (chapter 3) the general contradictions of oligopolistic/financial capitalism (my term not Zizek's), based on a new development to the Lacanian duality discourse of the Master (e.g. authority) versus the discourse of the University (e.g. reason), the new development is discourse of Financial Technocratic Expert (e.g. post-ideological system savior/reformer), reform destined to reinstitute more crises. In chapter 4 Zizek underscores the fact of an anti-democratic, racist, fascistic attitude emerging across the globe as a type of misplaced reaction to various global crises. In chapter 5, again based on Lacan and Marx, Zizek argues there is class split within Western capitalist societies, "between those who have nothing to lose and those who have everything to lose, between those without a stake in their community and those whose stakes are the greatest" (p. 60). Chapters 6 and 7 speak specifically to the title of the book, unfolding the Badiovian global event of 2011, from Arab Spring, to protests in Chinas, U.S. and global Occupy Wall Street movements, and more. Chapter 8 interprets the TV series "The Wire" as a precursor to the events of 2011, in its critique of contemporary Western societies. In the final two chapters Zizek attempts to offer some hope for transformation, as opposed to reforming, domestic and global orders. He suggests (quite similar to Badiou) that what is needed is a new fiction to offer an alternative vision of society. In typical Zizek fashion, he finds surprising inspiration. Namely in the sociopath. This is because the sociopath is he who abhors and rejects society. His sociopathic hero is found in Shakespeare's Coriolanus.
As he informs us in the introduction his goal is to provide a "'cognitive mapping; of our situation," to this I believe he finds considerable success.
The book is innovative and full of insightful analysis. Much like his _Less Than Nothing_ it is a demonstration in the Hegelian dialectic, not a theoretical disposition. In the end there is impressive coherence between chapters and a strong argument to understand the event(s) of 2011. These could be listed as: (1) the rise of the 2011 event(s) constitute a Totality of reaction to the failures of capitalism; (2) new class alliances have formed of salaried-managers and the marginally-employed/unemployed, i.e. the those well connected to community, those not; (3) the disconnection to community has manifested (progressive) protest and (regressive) violence and murder, and given rise to the "evil ethnic thing" and vicious racism; (4) there is "democratic illusion" (p. 87) whereby democracy is seen to be able to solve the crisis. However, Zizek maintains there is a deep contradiction between neoliberalism and democracy (p. 43); (5) the problems are systemic, so too must be the solution. No "stable change" or reform will be successful; (6) a new vision of society is necessary, the failures of old capitalism are all too obvious; (7) the new vision will have to move from old communism (capitalism without capitalism) to (a Blochian) something-yet-to-be determined.