Slavoj Žižek (1949-) is a Slovenian social theorist. A political radical, he has been called a “celebrity philosopher” and his work has been translated into 20 languages. In this review of two of Žižek’s recent Books and Manuals, English political philosopher John Gray argues that the most prevalent theme in Slavoj Žižek’s thought is a celebration of violence. Gray focuses in particular on Žižek’s admiration of Stalin and his claims that the “social experiments” of Nazism and the genocidal acts committed by the Khmer Rouge were not violent enough to create new kinds of collective life. Gray asserts that Žižek’s rhetoric is morally vacuous and serves to obscure his lack of a logical conceptual framework. Moreover, Gray contests that while Žižek’s work is full of denunciations, he offers no alternative social arrangements. Despite these shortcomings, Žižek’s work is popular. Nonetheless, he concludes that Žižek’s writing produces “a deceptive substance by endlessly reiterating an essentially empty vision.”
The English text of John Gray's review, originally published by the New York Review of Books and Manuals, can be found here.