‘Badiou, Žižek, and Political Transformations: The Cadence of Change’ by Adrian Johnston

Published by Northwestern University Press in 2009.


Alain Badiou and Slavoj Žižek together have emerged as two of Europe’s most significant living philosophers. In a shared spirit of resistance to global capitalism, both are committed to bringing philosophical reflection to bear upon present-day political circumstances. These thinkers are especially interested in asking what consequences the supposed twentieth-century demise of communism entails for leftist political theory in the early twenty-first century.

Badiou, Žižek, and Political Transformations examines Badiouian and Žižekian depictions of change, particularly as deployed at the intersection of philosophy and politics. The book details the origins of Badiou’s concept of the event and Žižek’s concept of the act as related theoretical visions of revolutionary happenings, delineating a number of difficulties arising from these similar concepts. Johnston finds that Badiou and Žižek tend to favor models of transformation that risk discouraging in advance precisely the efforts at changing the world of today that these uncompromising leftists so ardently desire. Badiou, Žižek, and Political Transformations will surely join Johnston’s Žižek’s Ontology as an instant classic in its field.

“Badiou, Žižek, and Political Transformations examines a topic mostly ignored by philosophers, left to pre-theoretical pragmatic considerations: how does a political transformation occur, what is its inherent logic? Johnston mobilizes his vast knowledge of German Idealism and of psychoanalysis and provides a detailed account of how changes are prepared, explode, are repeated, delayed or missed. There simply is no other way to put it: with his last book, Johnston confirmed himself as the leading political philosopher—not only of the younger generation, but of them all.”

—Slavoj Žižek

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