A brief look at Slavoj Žižek’s latest: Living in the End Times

Slavoj Žižek’s Living in the End Times is sure to be an immediate success among the Žižekian types. It is classic Žižek: profound philosophical erudition, cerebral cultural analysis, and sardonic and (often) salacious humor. In Living in the End Times, Žižek argues that the global capitalist system is approaching an apocalyptic zero-point. For the first time, we have a serious philosophical analysis of the Sitz im Leben of the current global capitalistic system, its coming demise, and an analysis of (what Žižek calls) its “four riders of the apocalypse” — the ecological crisis, the biogenetic revolution, imbalances within the system itself (problems with intellectual property; forthcoming struggles over raw materials, food and water), and the explosive growth of social divisions – in light of Kübler-Ross’s five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

There is no denying that Žižek is the sexy philosopher in contemporary philosophy. He provides stunning socio-cultural analysis, while using movies, television shows, etc., to illustrate his deeply complex philosophical analyses. As someone who leans heavily on the philosophical and theological traditions, I must say that I am drawn toward (nearly) anyone who can work in the fields of Hegel, Marx, and Lacan, while also drawing from the wells of Tertullian, Augustine, Aquinas, John Howard Yoder, Rowan Williams, et al.

E.g., Žižek on John Howard Yoder:

“Among contemporary theologians, it was John Howard Yoder who, in his The Politics of Jesus (1972), condemned this fourth-century compromise of the Church with the Emperor Constantine as a fateful shift away from the New Testament pattern of pacifism and suspicion of wealth, towards a ‘responsible’ ethic suitable for the dominant classes who did not recognize Jesus as Lord. Yoder dubbed this arrangement whereby State and Church support each other’s goals ‘Constantinianism,’ and regarded it as a dangerous and constant temptation. But Yoder did not reject Constantinianism on behalf of an ascetic withdrawal of believers from social life: aware of the limitations of democracy, he understood ‘being Christian’ as involving a non-reconciled political standpoint. The primary responsibility of Christians is not to take over society and impose their convictions and values on people who do not share their faith, but to ‘be the Church.’ By refusing to repay evil with evil, by living in peace and sharing goods, the church bears witness to the fact that there is an alternative to a society based on violence or the threat of violence” (129).

For me (and I hope for others), that the likes of Žižek, Badiou, et al., are beginning to engage seriously with the rich theological tradition(s) of the Church’s philosophers and theologians gives hope for a more cerebral public discourse than we have seen in the recent past.

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2 thoughts on “A brief look at Slavoj Žižek’s latest: Living in the End Times

  1. adhunt 27 May 2010 at 6:48 am Reply

    I love that he’s using Yoder. What a freak. I look forward to reading this book.

    – Which apocalyptic books does he lean on most heavily?

  2. Joshua C. Dorman 28 May 2010 at 9:38 pm Reply

    Tony, by “apocalyptic books” do you mean HB/CT, or “secular” apocalyptic texts?

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