‘The Ticklish Subject: The Absent Centre of Political Ontology’ by Slavoj Žižek

First published in 2001 by Verso

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(first edition, corrected scan)


A spectre is haunting Western academia, the spectre of the Cartesian subject. Deconstructionists and Habermasians, cognitive scientists and Heideggerians, feminists and New Age obscurantists — all are united in their hostility to it. The Ticklish Subject seeks to undermine the common presupposition of all these critiques by posing a provocative question: what if there is a subversive core of the Cartesian subject to be unearthed, a core which provides the indispensable philosophical point of reference of any genuinely emancipatory politics?

In this new, long-awaited systematic exposition of the foundations of his theory, Slavoj Žižek explores this question through a detailed and rigorous confrontation with predominant contemporary notions of the subject: Heidegger’s attempt to overcome subjectivity; the post-Althusserian elaborations of political subjectivity (Ernesto Laclau, Etienne Balibar, Jacques Rancière and Alain Badiou); deconstructionist feminism (Judith Butler); and the theories of second modernity and risk society (Anthony Giddens, Ulrich Beck).

While philosophical in tenor and peppered with Žižek’s characteristic witticisms, The Ticklish Subject is first and foremost an engaged political intervention, addressing the burning question of how to reformulate a leftist project in an era of global capitalism and its ideological supplement, liberal-democratic multiculturalism.

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