Žižek celebrates the wisdom of Rabinovitch through a massive retelling of the entire history of western philosophy, beginning in ancient Greece, passing through 19th-century Germany, and ending with various oddballs he has met on the conference circuit, and a few louts engaged in what he calls “Žižek-bashing”. The narrative is focused on Hegel, who understood better than anyone else how all our truths incorporate the errors and delusions from which they emerged. Hegel realised, as Žižek likes to put it, that radical change “retroactively posits its own presuppositions” – in other words, that it alters the past as well as the future – and this means, apparently, that he was a better “dialectical materialist” than Marx could ever be.
Sad bookworms such as me, with rows of ragged volumes of Hegel and Marx on our shelves, will find plenty of well-made points in these pages, but many readers may find themselves lapsing into baffled torpor. Even if you are attracted by Žižek’s Hegelian fundamentalism, you are bound to wonder how it connects with his spectacular radicalism. After all it never led Hegel in that direction: he was notoriously timid about political change. And if we accept that there is no truth without error, we may well conclude that it is better to cling to the habits that were good enough for our ancestors than to stake the happiness of future generations on a gamble with incalculable stakes and uncertain prizes.
A review of Slavoj Žižek’s Less Than Nothing: Hegel and the Shadow of Dialectical Materialism. [via The Guardian]