Review: Living in the End Times

Living in the End Times
Living in the End Times by Slavoj Žižek
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another fascinating ramble by Slavoj Zizek. This one, written in 2010 taking on the current political, economic, and cultural state following the failure of the twentieth century communist states and the triumph of twenty first century neo-liberalism.

The book is based around the Kubler-Ross stages of grief: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Anger, and Acceptance. It is the first section which contains the most insight into the modern world, dissecting how modern liberal tolerance delivers intolerance. The neoliberal revolution has driven us to a “post-politics” world where the only choice on offer is the neoliberalism itself. This system has successfully destroyed all opponents, but is incapable of surviving without opposition to temper it’s self destructive tendencies. The result is a system bent on it’s own destruction. This thesis is wholly compatible with work by the sociologist Wolfgang Streeck among others and five years on and after everything that’s happened in between is wholly persuasive.

The rest of the book is less immediately insightful, but remains interesting for all that. It’s a typically discursive ramble around philosophy, politics, culture, and psychoanalysis. It rarely seems to reach a conclusion but Zizek always makes for interesting reading. Sometimes offensive, sometimes opaque, always challenging and good at making you really think, properly.

In the afterword, Zizek finishes by making the modern case for communism using Lenin’s analogy (when talking about NEP) of a climber returning to the start so that they can try the ascent again using a different path, acknowledging that twentieth century communism failed, but that modern capitalism is leading us to catastrophe.

“Communism is today not the name of a solution but the name of a problem: the problem of the commons in all its dimensions… that universal space of humanity from which no one should be excluded. Whatever the solution might be, it will have to solve this problem.”

In some ways it is the most inspiring or affirming book by Zizek I have read, and well in tune with the times of Brexit, Trump, and economic and climate crises.

View all my reviews

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