Worst Book I Ever Read: Slavoj Žižek’s Living in the End Times

I paid almost 30 Euro for this book when it was new (in hardcover!) and
never have I felt so cheated by so-called serious literature. Žižek may be
even worse than Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections, which has been my
perenial example of serious literature that is actually trite garbage.

Basically, Žižek is a philosopher guy who studied a lot of Lacan and is
basically so sure that Lacan was right about everything, he can develop a
Lacanian argument about anything.

But, see, Žižek is an aesthetic philosopher (at least that’s what my
more-learned, philosophy-reading, PhD-having friend told me), meaning that
he doesn’t actually have to develop arguments. If an argument feels
right, then it is right. Because beauty is truth.

I call it shotgun philosophy: fire your poorly-conceived thoughts randomly
at anything that moves hoping to wound your opponents’ ideas (and have
your petulant followers gut it and skin the carcass next week).

And such wonderful shot fills Žižek’s cannon! The man can’t go a sentence
without dropping a six-syllable bomb, or contrasting a word against an
italicized version of itself. The quotes go on for pages at a time, all
seemingly out of context. And the footnotes. Oh God, the footnotes.

What is Žižek actually saying? It’s hard to tell but the general themes
that I can deduce are as follows:

  • politicians are bad
  • democracy is bad
  • modern art is bad
  • Ghandi was an idiot
  • Christianity is… something, hard to tell if it’s good or bad
  • Christian atheism is good (don’t ask me to explain it)
  • cinema is bad
  • Marxism and communism are unequivocably good

Interestingly enough, Zizek does not talk about how miserably communism
failed in this book.

Once in a while Žižek’s dose of amphetamines wears off and he approaches
some degree of lucidity. At one of these points he embarks on a full-scale
philosophic takedown of Kung-Fu Panda. Žižek puts this fun little kids’
movie into the centre of a critical barrage that somehow aligns the
eponymous panda in the movie with George W. Bush and the dearth of
spiritual belief in modern society. This is sad because I hear that
Kung-Fu Panda was actually a pretty great movie.

It’s bad. It’s bad bad bad. It’s navel-gazing, head-up-the-ass philosophy.
It’s impenetrable and willfully obscure. It’s ideological (a word that
Žižek loves). It’s cynical and glum.

This book’s best use is to hammer in nails. I have used it so. The dents
in the book’s spine look quite nice. The book, thus, has found its purpose.