If you wanna get your political mindset rocked, reading Zizek is a pretty good way to do it. He’s a philosopher and cultural critic. He writes politics, theology and psychology. He’ll quote Hegel one minute, Batman the next, and he’s a communist. Available for parties.
I gotta be honest and tell you that this book is right at the edge of things I can read and actually follow. I mean, I get all the Batman stuff – in fact, his analysis of the Chris Nolan films in the appendix is worth the price of the book – but when he gets into Lacan and Hegel and some other dudes I’ve never even heard of, I just have to go with what’s on the page, because I don’t sit around reading philosophy. That said, he’s an ace writer. He’s good enough (and nice enough) that if he wants to tell a joke in Hungarian, he’ll translate and give it context. Not all intellectuals bother to make their work accessible to us groundlings.
What he seems to be getting at in Trouble in Paradise is that because modern liberal democracy is not revolutionary enough, it cannot fulfill its historical promise of freedom and equality. Liberals reinforce an unequal system by advancing only flaccid reforms that cannot change the system, and conservatives preach economic freedom while enabling financial inequities that crush individuals. Thus, both sides actively support their own opposite. The revolution we need is one that marries both freedom & democracy and social & economic justice. Without both of those pairs, you have nothing. Okay, that sounds like “duh”, but his argument is both detailed and vast, and I’m sure I’ve missed [ahem] a few details. The Arab Spring, Occupy Wall Street, Margaret Thatcher, Jesus Christ and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter – you have no idea what’s gonna pop up on the next page. This is a worthy read, even if intimidating for some of us.
So check it out, then stare into space for a while like I did, then read it again, or something else by him or something by one of his critics (there are… a few) – and in this manner, become more intelligent. We’re all trundling towards the dark, brutal end of the capitalist dream together. But if we start challenging our assumptions, maybe we can save the world.