In Tarrying with the Negative, Žižek challenges the contemporary critique of ideology, and in doing so opens the way for a new understanding of social conflict, particularly the recent outbursts of nationalism and ethnic struggle. Are we, Žižek asks, confined to a postmodern universe in which truth is reduced to the contingent effect of various discursive practices and where our subjectivity is dispersed through a multitude of ideological positions? No is his answer, and the way out is a return to philosophy. This revisit to German Idealism allows Žižek to recast the critique of ideology as a tool for disclosing the dynamic of our society, a crucial aspect of which is the debate over nationalism, particularly as it has developed in the Balkans—Žižek’s home. He brings the debate over nationalism into the sphere of contemporary cultural politics, breaking the impasse centered on nationalisms simultaneously fascistic and anticolonial aspirations. Provocatively, Žižek argues that what drives nationalistic and ethnic antagonism is a collectively driven refusal of our own enjoyment.
Using examples from popular culture and high theory to illuminate each other—opera, film noir, capitalist universalism, religious and ethnic fundamentalism—this work testifies to the fact that, far more radically than the postmodern sophists, Kant and Hegel are our contemporaries.